Oregon Vistas

Not much writing news lately. I did finally add another chapter to Lassuni’s War on Wattpad.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some nice views of the area from yesterday afternoon.  The clouds were spectacular.  I’ve also taken to photographing open fields, because they are disappearing at an alarming rate. There’s so much development now, so many views are being lost. I’ve uploaded the full size files so click to embiggen.

8-8-16 clouds fenceline

8-8-16 crepuscular MB

8-8-16 Sylvias house

8-8-16 Burkhalter clouds

 

A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter – Review

WGHP

I can’t say enough good about “A (Unauthorized) Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter.”

I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this from the author. This is probably the single most engaging book on writing I’ve read. It’s beautifully written, and full of clear direction to take your work further by asking the right questions. Sipal dissects and analyzes the Harry Potter series of books to illustrate writing techniques such as story and character development, plotting, world building, mythic structure, anti-heroes, POV, and more. I admit I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so that was a large part of the attraction to the book for me, but you don’t need to be familiar with the books benefit from this, and to see there’s a lot here for any writer. Sipal gives enough detail on the various characters and events so that even those with no knowledge of the books can see how much detail there is and, more importantly, why those particular characteristics and items were included and how they influenced the story. She discusses the use of subtext and how it energizes the story, how each bit of information had a purpose, and the foreshadowing Rowling peppered throughout that readers went wild for. For those who are familiar with HP, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of the series itself. Too much writing advice consists of vague exhortations to “create fully fleshed-out characters” and “find your character’s motivation.” Here you’ll find concrete examples of what those mean, enabling you to dig deeper into your own work. This book was just the tonic I needed right now to regain enthusiasm for my own writing projects. I’ll be going back to this book again and again for inspiration.

Releases July 26, 2016

I Do It My Way

writer at deskI try to write the best books I possibly can, and with my limited free time to devote to writing, it should be no surprise that it takes me a while to finish even a first draft. Once that’s done, the revisions and rewrites begin before I allow beta readers to see it. This flies in the face of some of the advice to indie authors these days that you should be putting out several books a year. It simply can’t be done, or at least not done well. I take writing very seriously, and rather than toss out a sloppily written novel I try to put out the best product I can. Why should I expect anyone to pay money and spend time on anything less? I do aspire to be a better writer and I’m always looking to improve.

As a writer I love to discuss the craft of writing with other writers. To that end, I participated (briefly) in an online writer’s chat on Twitter the other day. It turned out to be more of a coffee klatsch than writing talk. Questions were things like “What’s the best review you’ve ever received?” Being at work while the chat was going I was only able to participate in the first question which was “Where are you in your writing process?” Most of the rest of the participants (not all) mentioned several projects that are in various stages of writing or revision. I answered that I’m working on the sequel to my first novel. I do have other stories started, but I’m focusing most of my time on the sequel. The moderator (who has apparently heard me discussing this before) said, “Still? How long have you been working on that?” I replied that if I didn’t have a day-job, it might go faster. The mod does not have a day-job. Yes, it’s taking me a while, and I’m sorry for that to those of you who are waiting for the sequel but I have to keep the day-job as I have bills to pay and I’m not a kept woman. Add in everything that needs to be done around the house on weekends and it leaves very little time to write.

That question rankled. It’s no wonder the market is flooded with poorly written books and indies have such a terrible reputation. People are cranking out multiple books a year, but how much time and attention are they giving to any of them? Could my own book have been better? Of course, and I wish I had the money to hire a professional editor to go over it. I may yet release a revised version, now that I’ve discovered ProWritingAid. I’m dying to run the whole book through it and make it better. I can already see things I’d like to change and tighten after using that program for just a couple weeks. I expect Revenants Within to be a much stronger book.

Before self-publishing became an option, it was the norm for a writer to take six months to write a book. Now, if you don’t publish six books a year, you’re pretty much told you’re slacking. I will never be able to write at that pace. If you can, godspeed. But don’t denigrate others who don’t.

And if you’re a slow writer like me, you’re not doing it wrong. You’re doing it at your own pace, which is exactly how you should.

My WordPress-iversary

Wow, I registered with WP 8 years ago. Eight years. Holy smokes. I started with my Wandering Mind blog back then, mostly chronicling my bicycle adventures. That blog has lain dormant for many years now while I’ve focused on writing and Tarot (on the Dangling Pentacles Tarot blog), which admittedly has been more active recently than this.

I’m gonna throw down the gauntlet to myself and try to get the sequel to Revenants Abroad out by the end of the year. We’ll see how that goes, but it’ll be 2 years on October 31 since RA was released. Time to get a move on!

You can really embiggen this pic, I uploaded the full 6Mb file.

Clouds over wheat field

Clouds over wheat field

Info Sharing — Editing for Indies

This is just an “info sharing” post. Indie authors (meaning self-published) have long had a very bad reputation for poorly written and poorly edited books. This is why it’s next to impossible to get brick-n-mortar bookstores to stock indie titles.  In my quest to improve my own writing I’ve discovered a couple of free editing tools that can help polish your manuscript. Professional editing costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, a cost most indie authors just plain can’t afford. These are the costs publishers absorb if you’re lucky enough to land a book deal, but for indie authors the whole cost is on us for editing, cover art, marketing, and so on. Even if you’re not going to self-publish, before you fling that thing into the cosmos with hopes of landing an agent, it still needs to be as shiny and pretty as possible. The less work it needs the better your chances of acceptance.

So herewith, two online tools that can help improve your writing. There’s nothing to download.

The first one I encountered was EditMinion. Editminion ss

Welcome! EditMinion is a robotic copy editor to help you refine your writing by finding common mistakes. To get started, paste a chapter of writing into the box above and click Edit! Don’t paste too much or the script will stop responding. This is still very much in Beta and I”ll be adding features as I come up with them. If you have suggestions, tweet @DrWicked or email imp@editminion.com. Thanks!

EMss3

Below that it shows the text with mark-up, highlighting the potential problems.

It’s a pretty good tool for what it does. It is in beta still, and I don’t know if the developer is actively working on it, I haven’t seen any changes to it recently. It can be a good quick check for certain issues, including ‘frequently used words’ which is a problem of mine. I tend to overuse certain words and don’t even notice. I was thrilled with this thing’s ability to help me find those. It’s entirely free, and as we all know, free is a very good price.

Next, I recently heard about  ProWritingAid via a comment on Anne R. Allen‘s blog. This one has both free and paid versions. If you really can’t afford to pay anything, it’s still a pretty robust tool that can help dramatically. The one-year subscription option is listed as $40, then $30/yr for a 2-year subscription, and on up to and a lifetime option for $100. I initially signed up for a free account, intending at some point to subscribe because I like to have all the bells and whistles,  but within just a few days of creating the free account, I received an email with the special offer for $30/yr. I came really close to paying that, but then I saw a little graphic on the left side of the email offering it for $25/yr. See the box on the left? Almost missed it. No guarantee it’ll be offered again, but if you check out the free version, wait for the email with free ebook of “20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers.” The special offers were tacked on at the bottom. Needless to say, I took them up on the $25/yr offer.

PWA ss1

Here’s the same sample analysis that I ran through EditMinion of a short story I’ve been working on:

PWAss2

You can see the analysis is much more detailed and thorough.  You click each heading on the left to see the areas of the text it dinged you on. I’ve found most of the suggestions very good, and have cleaned up and tightened flabby prose by taking its advice, but sometimes it’s just a stylistic difference and I can’t remove all the occurrences of “had” it thinks I should. There’s a lot to this thing, I haven’t even had a chance to check out all the features yet. The Word and Google Docs add-ins are only available if you pay for a subscription. I haven’t added the Word add-in, and I don’t use Google Docs so I won’t be bothering with that one. But you get most of the other features even with the free version.  You can save the document on their servers, export to Word or RTF format. There’s so much to this thing but I don’t want to go into more detail here and make this post even longer. Frankly I find it addictive. I love editing and cleaning up my writing and making it better. I’ve also found that when I seem to have a case of writer’s block, editing a bit can get the ideas flowing again.

Anyway, just a couple of options for those of us indies who want to make our writing the best it can be without taking out a second mortgage. And don’t get me wrong, working with a live editor who knows their schtuff is great, and they totally earn their money, but if we can’t afford it we can’t afford it. No amount of wishing is going to make that money materialize.

World Dracula Day 2016

 

Bram_Stoker_1906

I didn’t know there was one! Today is the anniversary of the first publication of “Dracula” in 1897. In honor of that, here some links to fun Dracula-related things (sites, podcasts):

http://www.bramstoker.org/novels/05dracula.html

The Dracula Chronicles

The Vampire Historian – World Dracula Day Mini-sode (from 2015, don’t see anything more recent)

The 1977 “Count Dracula” from the BBC, starring Louis Jourdan. One of the more faithful adaptations. Sorry, can’t find one without the subtitles. Subtitles just annoy me.

And remember, “The dead travel fast.”

Vampire Tarot Magician