Guest post: “Getting More Out of Your Writing” by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

Getting More Out of Your Writing

by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

 

Writing is both a craft and an art. There are aspects that cannot be taught; you either have it or you don’t. But plenty of the skills that go into making a good writer can be learned. The general rule of thumb: Writing more leads to writing better.

But what’s the best way to get more writing done? I’ve never been a fan of writing exercises for their own sake. They always strike me as too artificial. Writing is about telling stories. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice your craft. But make your practice work for you. You may even get paid for it.

Here are a few ways I’ve turned what could have been a writing exercise into something more:

 

1) Flash Fiction

Do you need to work on dialogue? Do you want to practice your action scenes? Unsure whether first person or third person POV is right for your story? Flash fiction can be the perfect way to improve your writing through experimentation.

I define flash fiction as any story under 1000 words, though there are markets under 500 words, or even 100-word stories.

There are many advantages to working in such a small scale. In flash fiction, every word counts. Practicing flash fiction can teach you to choose the right word in the right situation. Flash fiction is also great for experimentation. I’ve written flash that are only dialogue or that just paint an impressionistic portrait of a single character. In a rough spot on your novel? Write the worst day your main character ever had, and do it in 500 words.

Flash is all about instant gratification. I’ve written five or more drafts of a 100-word story and still finished in a single day. In the midst of a long project, it can be nice to remember that you can finish a story.

 

2) Short Stories

Longer fiction (say, 2,000 to 7,000 words) has many of the advantages of writing flash fiction while providing additional opportunities in practicing your craft. If flash fiction allows you to experiment and to focus on individual narrative elements, short stories are the place to work on structural features of stories such as pacing and combining scenes into successful sequences.

In the 1930s and 40s, writer in the US often got their start writing for the pulp fiction magazines. Today, print-on-demand anthologies and e-anthologies can serve the same function. You can’t get rich writing for them, but you may be able to buy that Rabbit Valley book you have your eye on.

 

3) Blogs, Forums, and Social Media

One of the goals of the Furry Writers’ Guild is to foster professionalism among furry writers. Professionalism is a broad concept, but one of the things it means is this: You should write at a level that people pay you for what you write.

Money and art are not enemies. The days of noble patronage of the arts are long gone. Even if you are never able to support yourself by your writing, being paid for your writing frees you that little bit more to create more. People show what they think is important by what they will pay for. Take your writing seriously enough to expect to be paid for it.

That said, there are times when it’s perfectly fine to write and not be paid. Or at any rate, not in money. In addition to trying to sell your stories, look for opportunities where your writing can create what might be called social capital.

The age in which we live puts the writer in control of their own destiny in a way like never before. Readers want to connect not just with your stories, but with you and your personal story. Blogs, forums, Twitter and other forms of social media enable you as a writer to connect with people around the world.

But it’s not about shoving your work down their throats. It’s all about building friendships. Take the time to write something people can connect with. Write professionally (e.g. without texting abbreviations), because people will judge you based on how you present yourself online. Put yourself out there, even for free, but do it strategically.

Today’s internet is like a bizarre cocktail party taken to several orders of magnitude. Don’t whore yourself out to anyone who comes along. Find a community where you think you can add to the conversation and focus there. Give more than you take, and at worst you may make some friends. At best, you may find a community of people interested in your work.

And yes, this blog is an effort in practicing what I preach.

 

Links I Find Helpful

I want to conclude by giving a few links I’ve personally found helpful in trying to act on the thoughts I’ve outlined here. My own interest is in speculative fiction (fantasy, horror, science fiction), so there is a definite bias in that direction. Not that these are not strictly furry markets, but in my experience, most people in speculative fiction are very open-minded, so long as the story is told well.

 

Flash Fiction

http://www.microbookends.com/ MicroBookends is a weekly micro fiction contest based on a photo prompt. A very cool community surrounds this group.

http://thecultofme.blogspot.com/ This blog sponsors a monthly flash fiction contest with a significant giftcard prize.

http://specklit.com/ One of the highest paying sites for 100 word stories.

http://www.drabblecast.org/ Home for many weird and wonderful things, including drabbles and great short stories.

 

Short Stories

http://www.ralan.com/ In my humble opinion, your best one-stop site for finding markets to sell speculative fiction.

http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ When Duotrope became a pay site, The Submissions Grinder became the best free search engine for calls for submission.

http://horrortree.com/ The best on-stop site for horror calls. The calendar view is extremely helpful.

http://thewritersarena.com/ Full disclosure — I’m regularly a judge at this weekly one-on-one writing contest. But if you’re up to the challenge of writing a story under 4000 words in one week on an assigned topic, the Arena can be a lot of fun.

 

Blogs, Et Cetera

https://furrywritersguild.com/

http://www.anthroaquatic.com/forum/index.php

https://twitter.com/FurWritersGuild

You probably know all these links already, but the Furry Writers’ Guild is a perfect example of social media done right. Writers helping other writers not because they’re getting paid but because they want to fill the world with more good stories. Learn from what the guild members do well!

 

Guest post: “Seeing the Road Ahead” by Kyell Gold

Seeing the Road Ahead

by Kyell Gold

 

“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

If you’re only a short way into your writing career and you’re discouraged by how far you have to go, there’s a silver lining: you’re on the right path. Being a writer, or indeed any creative professional, takes people through many stages. Ira Glass has talked about “the gap” that happens when you’ve progressed a little way into your field, far enough to recognize the work of the really good people but not there yourself yet. He talks about the importance of pushing through that gap, and I think anyone starting out in a creative field should watch that video.
 
The above Conan Doyle quotation is one I ran across recently and it struck me as not only another way to look at Ira Glass’s “gap,” but also a way to encourage people who feel stuck there. I think a lot of people starting out in art don’t realize that it takes a certain amount of skill just to be able to evaluate the work of others in your field. When you get to this stage where you’re thinking, “my work will never be as good as these works I admire,” what you may not realize is that you’re already on the way there.

Critiquing is one of the most important skills in writing (and, I think, any art). You have to be able to critique your own work, and the easiest way to develop that skill is to critique the work of others. If you can’t look at a piece and judge its quality, even in a very rough sense, you’re not going to be able to refine your work and make it better; you’re not going to learn from your mistakes and make your next effort even better.

This is hard to do. When you haven’t tried to look at any work objectively, to see what the artist was trying to do and where the flaws are, you see in your own work only the beautiful story that was in your head. When other people look at your work and tell you that your characters are flat or that your dialogue is stiff and unrealistic (or any other critiques), it’s discouraging not (only) because they don’t like it, but because you can’t see those flaws to correct them. It’s like being in that dream where you’re being given a test in a class you can’t remember having taken. In a way, it doesn’t feel fair.

When I read slushpiles for magazines, one of the things that consistently amazed me was how people would send in these terrible submissions, poorly punctuated with grammar and spelling that even most Internet forum posters would cringe at, and they would claim to have read our magazine. I would think, “Seriously? You read our stories and you think this belongs alongside it?” But those people just hadn’t developed the critical faculty yet.

How do you go about this? Discuss writing with other people or read reviews of books from many different sources—friends, professional reviewers, anywhere you can find them. Listen to other people explain critically what’s good and bad about many different pieces of writing and try to understand their views. This is something I still do, because like most things, learning to critique is not something you’re ever done with. Eventually you will develop your own thoughts about what works and doesn’t work, and you will have other beginning writers listening to you.

So if you’re discouraged about the state of your writing (or other art) compared to the people you admire, take heart and keep going. Because you’re on the right path. It’s a long one, but you’re a step closer than you were when you started.

Guest post: “On Tropes and Training Wheels” by Kandrel

On Tropes and Training Wheels

by Kandrel

 

As happens fairly regularly on Twitter (and other social media outlets) I was asked for an opinion. I’m not sure why people are interested in my rambling, but whatever. I like talking, and apparently there are people who like listening. Who am I to complain? In this particular instance, I was asked to provide a list of ‘tropes’ I was aware of in furry literature. ‘Sure!’ I thought. ‘No trouble! Let’s see there’s… Well, and there’s… Um…’The perceptive reader might notice that of course I didn’t have trouble thinking of tropes. No, that was easy. The tough part was thinking of tropes that I haven’t used—or that I even continue to use on a regular basis. Obviously, I couldn’t give them as examples, because then some troll would post examples of me using them and call me a hypocrite. Talk about embarrassing! But I was asked for my opinion, so my opinion I would—by damn—give! So there must be tropes that I don’t use, but that are pretty prominent in furry fiction. It might be a shorter list, but I could definitely provide that.But thinking on it, even those ones that I didn’t use, I could recognize them out of my favorite works as well. The only reason I hadn’t used them is that the opportunity hadn’t arisen yet. It would. If I continued to tell stories (and I can’t see any particular reason why I would stop) I would eventually use them. So what, exactly, are we mocking here?

So I had a sit and a think. Had a hot chocolate. Listened to some music. I let myself cogitate. What exactly was it we were condemning here? Let me make it clear—this was a condemnation. People don’t collect tropes because they think they’re awesome. This isn’t a reader’s group talking about their favorite author’s techniques and tricks. When you hear the word ‘trope’, I’ll bet you that it’s meant derogatively.

Should it be? I mean, I know that I’ve called authors out on it while editing. Multiple times. Hell, I’ve had people rewrite entire sections of story to avoid tropes. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what a proper beta reader and editor would do, right? Right?

Well…

First, I want to have you think about the life-cycle of a storyteller. In the beginning, we’re all imitating the stories we like. Thinking about it now, this is where ‘tropes’ are most important—not because of what we should avoid, but because of what we should use. I mean it. An inexperienced storyteller can use the tropes to hone their art while making passable pieces of fiction. Think of them as training wheels. So here’s one I’m sure you’re all familiar with: “Story opens with furry looking at themselves in a mirror.” You’ll hear experienced authors moan about this. Ugh. Overused. Overplayed. Cheap excuse for an infodump-y description. Well, want to know why it’s a trope? It’s because it works. It’s hard to find a reason for the character to be giving a description of themselves, and even if it’s a trope, at least it’s giving those newbie storytellers a reason to actually do a description.

But just as we’re starting to get more comfortable with the process of writing, we age and we learn and we progress. During the next phase of a storyteller’s life, we’ll slowly recognize those training wheels for what they are. Over the next while, we start to remove them. We become aware of the tropes, and once aware, avoid them. We hunt for ways to fit things into our stories in new and novel ways. Using the example above, instead of a mirror, we look for ways to fit in small titbits of the description into the narrative so the person experiencing the story slowly gets a whole image of the character in their mind. This is more elegant. But remember that trope we’re now avoiding? It trained us. It had us writing descriptions even before we were ‘ready’ to. We’ve described a hundred characters. Sure, we had a bad excuse for doing it, but at least we can write a description. We know what’s important to describe, and we know how to do it with style. And now that we’re learning to do it in an elegant fashion, we’re well prepared. Would we be if it hadn’t been for the training wheels?

This is the phase of a storyteller’s life where you see the most complaints about the tropes. Authors like me who’ve recognized the training wheels for what they are look back at their own stories that used them and shudder. They read other people’s stories, and those tropes immediately pull them out of the story. They edit with a scalpel to excise those tropes from everything they see and read. It’s as if we’re over sensitized to them, because we see how we used to rely on them.

And we look down on the people who still use them, even though we shouldn’t. We’re the too-cool-for-school kids with their eighteen-speed bikes, looking back at the young kids with their training wheels. We’re pointing and laughing from our comfortable older age and greater experience. And the younger or more inexperienced storytellers feel ashamed, because every time they try to remove a trope, they end up falling. Their story gets away from them, or they never find a way to describe the main character, or they end up falling onto a different trope they didn’t even know was a trope until another one of us upperclassmen laugh and point again.

There is a last phase of this life cycle, though. At the end, those of us who’ve spent enough time picking on the little kids finally grow up enough to look back at those training wheels we used to use. We pick them up and roll them over in our hands. They weren’t really bad. They were perfectly functional, we just used them badly. We take a second look and realize there’s actually something beautiful and elegant about them, if we use them just right. We go back to those tropes, and we play with them. We use them to set expectations, then break them. We hide them in our work as jokes, waiting for someone to realize they were just “trope’d” and never knew it. We brazenly base our stories off a well-known trope, but write them in such a way that it feels novel and fresh.

The best part of this story is that it’s a circle. When I write a story that uses one of those tropes in an elegant fashion, new storytellers read my story. ‘Hey, that worked’ they tell themselves. ‘It’s an easy trick! I could do that!’ Then they’ll try to emulate it. They’ll see the training wheels I’ve artfully used, and bolt them inexpertly onto their own story. It’ll work—if only just. It’ll give them an excuse to keep writing. It’ll give them a safe opportunity to learn. It keeps them from falling down.

We know the training wheels are stupid-looking and juvenile. But we’re authors. We’re thinkers and storytellers. We’re the imagineers. Remember that with just the right amount of imagination, a bicycle with two extra wheels could just as easily be called a car.

 

This post first appeared on Kandrel’s blog. You can view the original post here.

Guest post: “5 Tips for Writing Animals” by Jess E. Owen

5 Tips for Writing Animals

by Jess E. Owen

 

I’ll expand that and say, 5 Tips for Writing Animals that Also Help With Writing Fantasy.

After reading some fiction by younger, (or) just newer, fresh and exciting authors, I see some trends. I read around on DeviantArt, Fur Affinity, blogs, new novels, unpublished work and more, and these are some things to keep in mind when writing that may stop a prospective publisher, editor or agent in their tracks. (That was a cliche, see what I did there?)

Keep in mind these are second draft changes. Don’t make your head explode (or worse, stop writing) while you get out a first draft, but once you have a first draft, comb through for things like this.

 

1. Don’t use Human words to describe Animal things.

(In writing fantasy, this translates to: don’t use modern words to describe fantastic things). Example: She ran/flew/leaped as fast as a bullet.  First: Are there bullets in your world? If not, cut it. When writing first drafts, we reach for the easiest metaphors, but they might not fit. If there are bullets in your world, is an animal likely to think of herself in those terms? Probably not. Think of other fast things. What do other animals consider fast? Don’t reach immediately for “cheetah” or “falcon” unless your character is familiar with them. Keep descriptions relative to your character’s experience and things that actually exist in that world. In their world.

“…swifter than the east wind, she soared along the crest of the mountain.”

 
2. Be consistent with names.

Study Erin Hunter and Kathryn Lasky and Clare Bell, the original (and PUBLISHED) animal authors. Their names make sense within the world of the animal. You don’t have to name your animal characters after characteristics (Redfur, Shorttail, Broadwing) although this is fun and you can. If you have a culture (and you should), make sure there is a cultural theme. This is true for fantasy as well. If you’ve taken time to create a culture (and you should), stick to names that are in the same culture too. Don’t have an “Krystalis Moonwater” in the same world as “Chris Jones,” unless one of them is from another dimension. Name inconsistencies like that will stop me from reading. We all have names we love (a personal favorite is “Ian”), but alas, if they don’t fit in the world, they don’t get a place in that story.

 

3. Think about what’s important to the animal.

…and have them notice those things. Little tics that we have as humans aren’t important to animals. They don’t think, “What time is it?” They think, in their own way, “I can’t see after dark. I should hunt now while it’s light.” The gryfons and wolves in my stories are very “human” in their needs and wants, but at the end of the day they’re animals with instincts and urges and limitations set by nature. Do they eat meat, or fruit? Are they more likely to listen for predators, or listen for prey? What do they care for in colors, scents, movement?

 

4. Body language.

Figure out (or research) what different movements mean to your animals. Are you writing a bird culture? A feline culture, or wolf culture? Horses? Something new? I took from both feline and raptor body movements to create gryfon body language that makes sense, and in some cases I made things up. “Mantling” is something eagles and hawks to do protect a kill. It’s also a beautiful gesture and wing display, and so when gryfons bow to a superior in my world, they mantle their wings to show respect. Think about body language and work it in. It’s even more important to feral animals than humans, although 85% of our communication is also non-verbal.

 

5. Animals are people too.

By that I mean of course, if you’re writing animals, you’re really writing people — they must have wants, needs, goals, challenges and setbacks just like any other story. Let us enjoy the animal super powers that we don’t have as humans — flight, super sight, smell and hearing — but when that’s stripped away, make sure you give us an engaging story and a sympathetic hero to root for.

 

Secret tip number 6…. don’t be a slave to reality. There are things that wolves do in my book that real wolves would not do. (Pack size, for instance). Gryfons don’t exist in our world and so there are no rules for them, but they fall somewhere between a lion pride (living in groups), and an eagle culture (a pair mating for life).

Always be respectful of the animals and if you can slip in a fun factual tidbit á la Kathryn Lasky, go for it!  Just remember that we aren’t writing behavioral manuals: we’re writing stories.

Want to see how I handled animal writing + fantasy? Get Song of the Summer King today! ;)

 

 

This post originally appeared on Jess E. Owen’s blog. You can view the original post here. For more about Jess E. Owen and her work, check out her website!

Calling all furry poets!

There aren’t all that many open calls for poetry among the fandom’s publications, so I thought this deserved an announcement of its own. [adjective][species] is currently seeking animal- or furry-themed poetry to publish on their site, and they’re open to poetry submissions through the end of this month. Submissions must be unpublished (though having been previously posted to FA, SoFurry, or Weasyl is okay).

You can find all the details here:

http://adjectivespecies.com/2015/03/06/call-for-submissions-furryanimal-poetry/

 

 

Guest post: “Grammar Lesson: Metonymy & Synecdoche” by Anima

Grammar Lesson: Metonymy & Synecdoche

by Anima

Today we’re going to tackle two figures of speech you probably remember from school but may never consciously use in your writing: metonymy and synecdoche.

Metonymy is referring to a noun not by its name, but by something associated with it, whether specifically or just conceptually.

Synecdoche is a more specific type of metonymy in that it uses just a part of something to refer to its whole.

When you say ‘the university would frown upon that’ you’re using metonymy, because you’re really talking about the people who run the place. Similarly, referring to the U.S. government as Washington (a location heavily associated with the government) or reporters collectively as the press (a tool essential to their trade) that’s all metonymy.

As for synecdoche, the most common examples you’ll find are things like ‘all hands on deck,’ but remember it’s not limited to human parts. http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/synecdocheterm.htm has some better examples of synecdoche than other sites, including one from Updike, ‘a pair of headlights.’

You may be using synecdoche without thinking about it in situations where your characters can only detect part of something.  ‘The glowing eyes tracked me from the hedge, and more than ever, I wished I’d never clambered out of the carriage.’

Some uses for metonymy or synecdoche include brevity, description, and to help convey a character’s attitude about something. If your character refers to businessmen or investors as ‘suits,’ you can draw some inferences about that. If you add some air quotes or an awkward laugh to the same word, you’ll produce different inferences.

Both can come in handy when working on furry fiction. While even conventional dialogue includes phrases like ‘get your tail in here,’ they’re more relevant in our genre of choice. Don’t be afraid to follow familiar formulas to create new idioms for your anthropomorphic cultures using synecdoche and metonymy; just keep your story’s tone in mind. It can be a fine line to walk between humor and a plausible example of parallel linguistic evolution, and you don’t want one when you intended the other.

Furry characters also offer more visual variety and more opportunities to use synecdoche.  Stripes, spots, antlers, horns, any distinguishing feature can be used as shorthand when referring to respective characters, and can also help convey the fact that the observer only got a vague impression of the character in question, because darkness, motion, or other factors interfered.

These figures of speech help make your writing and dialogue more natural; people use them every day.

Guest post: “Behind Red Stone Walls” by Renee Carter Hall

Behind Red Stone Walls

by Renee Carter Hall

 

Many readers’ experiences with Brian Jacques’ Redwall books began in childhood. I was in my senior year of high school when I first discovered the books, but as with all of my reading, age never mattered, whether it was my age or the intended audience of the books.

martin coverAt that time, since I didn’t have a good bookstore close to home, I picked up a lot of my casual reading from the book and magazine sections of local grocery stores. One day I found Martin the Warrior on those racks alongside thrillers and romances, and from the first glance at the cover, I was hooked.

It was a while before I realized the book was technically children’s fiction. This paperback edition was mass-market size, not the larger format I was used to for middle-grade fiction, and the bookstore where I bought the later works shelved all of them in the science fiction and fantasy section. To me it just felt like fantasy, with a childlike sense of wonder and its cast of animal characters — some friendly, some fierce — that appealed to me instantly. I’d never read anything quite like it, and as soon as I could, I started tracking down the other books.

Throughout my life, there have been various authors — only one or two at a time — from whom I’m willing to purchase hardcovers without having read the book first. Brian Jacques occupied that honored position for several years. While I quickly caught on to the formula of his plots, I loved inhabiting the world of fairy-tale valor he’d created.

By the time Marlfox was published in 1998, I had recently married and was living in San Diego. While there, I’d had the opportunity to meet more than one of my favorite authors, and I kept hoping for Jacques to visit. I finally got my chance when he came to a children’s bookstore in Riverside, California, in February 1999, while on tour for Marlfox. Because he’d injured his hand at a previous stop, he wasn’t able to personalize books, just sign them, but it was still a chance to say hello — though I think I was the oldest fan there, unless you count the bookstore’s staff.

I’d only ever owned a paperback copy of Redwall, so I bought the hardcover anniversary edition for him to sign. At some point when he was signing the book, either I or my husband mentioned that I’d written a children’s book as well (a middle-grade portal fantasy that remains unpublished and probably always will). He said well, someday he would have to come stand in line for my book. I babbled something inane along the lines of how he wouldn’t read it, though, because I’d heard that he never read other children’s authors. I admit I don’t remember most of the talk he gave that day, but I do remember how much I loved hearing him, how wonderful he was with the children who sat at his feet, and (as I noted in my journal afterward) that “he reminded me of the kind of uncle that all the children look forward to seeing, with stories to tell them and treats hidden in pockets.”

My husband and I left San Diego not long after that, moving back to my home state of Virginia, to an apartment near Dulles Airport. There were planes flying over almost constantly, their contrails marking the daytime skies. And then came a September morning in 2001 when there were suddenly no planes in the sky at all.

Continue reading “Guest post: “Behind Red Stone Walls” by Renee Carter Hall”

Guest post: “Thief of Song Blurb, and Blurbs in General” by M. C. A. Hogarth

Thief of Song Blurb, and Blurbs in General

by M. C. A. Hogarth

 

Thief of Songs blurbHere’s the blurb for Thief of Songs! Someone on Twitter asked me if I had any tips for blurb-writing, and this seems a good time to talk about that. Particularly since, unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoy blurb-writing. (Yes, I know. I am crazy.) The most memorable advice I ever received on this topic was from agent Don Maass, who gave a short lecture on “the elevator pitch” while promoting his book Writing the Breakout Novel. I don’t remember the book, but I do remember the pointers about pitching. Pitching, he said, is about “capturing interest, not telling the story.” It should include the three essential components: character, setting, and conflict. And it should answer the question: “Why should I care? What’s the emotional appeal?”

So the heart of blurbing, for me, is identifying the central conflict, the character most affected by it, and then ending with a leading question/statement that invites the reader to find out more.

In Thief’s case, the conflict in the story is Amet’s problems with the lowlands. He is the character most affected by that conflict. And the leading question is whether he’ll be willing to set those problems aside to love a lowlander. Easy peasy! But the art of blurbing is making those answers as succinct as possible, while also as exciting and mysterious as possible. Think of movie trailers: they give you only enough set-up to understand why you should care about the outcome, and then tease you by not revealing the ending!

Here’s the fun part of it for me, then: I want the whole thing to fit in 3-5 sentences. Fewer is best!

So, some more examples for deconstruction. Here’s Mindtouch‘s:

Mindtouch blurb
Setting: The entire first sentence gives this context.
Character Most Affected: Jahir (who shows up in sentence #2).
Description of Conflict: the second part of the second sentence (“unprepared for… etc.”)
Leading question: “Will the two, etc etc.”
Sentence count: 3

Here was a rough one for me, the Black Blossom blurb:

Black Blossom blurb
Conflict: First sentence!
Character Most Affected (or at least, most prevalent because Narration): “the gentle Calligrapher, etc…”
Setting: The third sentence.
Leading question: The last two sentences.
Sentence count: 4

Now, here’s an interesting exercise. When the sequel to Flight of the Godkin Griffin came out, both Sofawolf (the print publisher) and I wrote blurbs for it without consulting one another. It was a difficult exercise because we’re introducing the final book in a series, which means we have to allude, at least a little, to the first. And we handled it in very different ways! Here’s Sofawolf’s blurb:

Sent to oversee the most recent territorial acquisition in the Godson’s empire, Mistress Commander Angharad finds herself in an unexpected position. Rather than smoothly assuming control from the outgoing governor, she finds herself in opposition to violent factions of the occupying forces, the corrupt governor she is replacing, and unexpectedly even the Godson himself.

No doubt her unplanned adoption as the champion of the conquered province of Shraeven and the chosen vessel of its many native Gods has something to do with her sudden fall from favor.

Certain that Shraeven holds the final key to the empire’s goal of breeding a God of their own, the Godson himself arrives to regain control of the province. Angharad knows that a lasting peace will only come from a diplomatic solution, but with the Godson’s behavior becoming increasingly erratic, she is no longer sure he is capable of reason.

The Godson’s Triumph is the conclusion of the fantasy military adventure started in Flight of the Godkin Griffin, and takes Angharad to the brink of war with her own country on her way to truly understanding the Gods and the empire’s dedication to emulating them.

Meanwhile, here’s the one I wrote:

Mistress Commander Angharad Godkin hates politics… so of course, her ruler the Godson sent her to replace the Governor of barely tamed Shraeven province. She hates religion, so naturally, the native gods began to plague her the moment she arrived. And since she hates both, the gods started playing politics—and the politicians began playing at godhood. In Flight of the Godkin Griffin, Angharad, a creaky old veteran of the Godkindred Kingdom’s many wars of conquest, was dragged out of retirement only to discover her newest assignment—to rule a province in peace—might finally be the death of her. She certainly wasn’t expecting to face off against her own monarch in a battle that will decide not just her own fate, and not just the fate of Shraeven Province… but of the world itself.

The Godson’s Triumph returns us to the world of Angharad Godkin and her comrades and concludes their epic journey. But who will be left standing when the fires burn out?

The last piece of advice Maass gave was to “use one of the following words in your last sentence: love, heart, dream, journey, fortune, destiny.” I don’t follow the letter of this law, but you can see clearly what he’s aiming for with it: you should be pitching a hero’s journey to the reader, a story that really grips your heart. It has, as modern audiences can now say, ALL THE FEELS. If it doesn’t have all the feels, why bother? And if your overall blurb doesn’t operate on that level, it’s not going to connect to as many people as you hope.

So, in short:
1. Keep it short.
2. Keep it punchy—now is not the time to downplay the conflict.
3. Identify the most important conflict and the character grappling with it and put them on center-stage.
4. Give enough setting information that the conflict makes sense/feels urgent.
5. End with a question/invitation to find out more.

I am not the best blurb-writer in the world, but I think I do passably at it, and I enjoy doing it. If you have questions, leave ’em here and we can continue deconstructing the process. Or if you have examples of great blurbs you like, bring them here!

This post first appeared at M. C. A. Hogarth’s blog. The original post can be found here.

 

Guest post: “Subconscious Themes” by R. A. Meenan

Subconscious Themes

by R. A. Meenan

 

Let’s start by looking back to the last English class you took… For some of you that’s way back in high school. For some it was a college level class. Some of you might actually be in an English class right now.

Now think of some of the things you did in that class. Chances are, if you analyzed any kind of literature, you looked into the subconscious mind of the author in order to better understand why he or she wrote the literature that they did.

For example, why did Shakespeare write Hamlet? Many people claim it’s because Shakespeare’s own son died young. Or why did Ray Bradbury write Fahrenheit 451? It’s a well known fact that Bradbury feared that technology would take over our way of life and become so ingrained in our culture that we would one day stop learning.

Literature classes often encourage looking into the author’s mind while analyzing their work. But what about our own work?

We often write themes that we didn’t intend. People who read our books or short stories will get things out of the writing that we never thought possible.

When you look a little deeper into it, those themes become obvious. But those are just themes. They are large overlaying elements to a story. They generally take huge chunks out of the story. It’s what the story is “about” if you will.

But what about smaller elements? What about story elements that pop up unexpectedly? How does your subconscious affect your writing?

I learned something about my writing the other day. Let me explain a little.

The other day I was listening to a song that talked about the fantasy of childhood and the reality of adulthood. One line of it really struck home because it spoke about fathers. It said,

“My father said…
Don’t you worry, don’t you worry child,
See heaven’s got a plan for you,
Don’t you worry, don’t you worry now…”

So on and so forth.

I don’t know how many of you know, but my father passed away when I was only 12. My mother, by choice, did not remarry, so I haven’t had much in the way of father figures.

As I daydreamed about the song (I often daydream stories and events from my novels or with my characters while I listen to music) I realized something… None of my major characters have much in the way of father figures either.

Six of my major and important characters without fathers. That’s a lot.

And it got me wondering. Did I do that on purpose? Is my subconscious trying to tell me something? Is this a way for my mind to cope with the fact that my father is dead?

I wasn’t sure, until I took it a step further. Two of those characters above (I’m not saying who) get their fathers back. Is that my mind telling me it wishes my father could come back?

I know I didn’t do that on purpose. My father died a long time ago. I don’t really think about it much, at least on the conscious level. It’s really interesting to see how my subconscious has played a role in my writing. And I know this isn’t the only example of such.

Do you have subconscious themes in your writing? Take a look at your own writing. Look at a novel, a short story, or whatever, and see if you can find your own subconscious working on elements in your story. This could be based on previous experiences, events in your childhood, your preference in writing or reading… all kinds of things.

Good luck!

This post first appeared at R. A. Meenan’s blog. You can see the original post here.

 

Guest post: “What Can Goodreads Do For Me?” by Huskyteer

What Can Goodreads Do For Me?

by Huskyteer

What it is

Launched in 2007 and acquired by Amazon in 2013, Goodreads is a social network for readers and writers. Like Facebook, but for books. Bookbook, if you will. Users can search for books in the extensive database, for the most part user-created, and add them to their ‘shelves’. If the book you’re after isn’t listed, you can do your part by adding it. There are three default bookshelves, ‘Want to Read’, ‘Currently Reading’, and ‘Read’, but you can add as many custom shelves as you like; ‘Crime’, for example, or ‘Non-fiction’, or perhaps ‘Comfort Reads’ or ‘Really Bad Books’.

It’s strangely satisfying to have a record of what you’ve read, with statistics and word clouds for your shelves. If you feel the need to gameify your reading experience, you can sign up for a challenge like ‘read 50 books in a year’. Every time you log in, Goodreads will tell you how many books you’ve got through and how far behind or ahead of schedule you are. Other bits of fun include literary trivia questions, polls, and daily quotes from writers.

As well as keeping track of what you’ve read, you can follow your friends to see what they’re reading and reviewing, and leave comments. I’ve had many a Goodreads discussion over books I might otherwise never have suspected someone I know had also read.

Looking at your friends’ shelves is one way to find new reading matter, but there are also communities for fans of particular genres, as well as for readers from one particular area or with a common interest. There’s a reasonably active furry community, Furries!, as well as the more general Anthro Fiction group. Goodreads also offers recommendations based on what you’ve read, and lists of the top books in a particular category, which can be as broad as ‘Best Young Adult Books’ or as specific as ‘M/M Cat-Shifters, Feline Aliens, and Other Feline Humanoids’.

When you finish a book, you can add a star rating and a review, tweet the fact that you’ve finished it, and recommend it to friends (Goodreads even suggests friends who might like it, given their tastes). All of this is optional, of course, but if you loved a book, this sort of thing can really benefit the author. Which brings me on to:

Goodreads for writers

Here’s where things get interesting. Once you’re signed up as a Goodreads Author, you have a number of options for promoting your works and interacting with your readership, most of which will cost you nothing but time.

Learn more about your readers and how your books are doing by visiting the page for one of your books. Here you can see who’s read it, who’s marked it as To Read, and any ratings and reviews. Who are those people? What else are they reading? These could be valuable clues to help your marketing strategy. See whether your book is featured on any lists, and what else is on there. Add it to some lists yourself (sneaky!).

Goodreads offers a number of configurable widgets, so you can show off your reviews on your own website, or add a button next to your book so passers-by can add it to their To Read list. They even provide the API if you really want to get down and dirty. And if you don’t mind giving away something for nothing, it doesn’t take much more effort to upload a free sample of your work as an ebook.

Continue reading “Guest post: “What Can Goodreads Do For Me?” by Huskyteer”