Writing, Reading, and Procrastination

books stack old antique
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Currently, I am coming to the end of chapter two in a book I am writing. At least I think it will be a book. (I have been mistaken before.)  I would be much further along if it wasn’t for Mercedes Lackey.

For Christmas, I received an eagerly anticipated trilogy of books. I knew I would get them. I had asked for them specifically when people inquired what I wanted for Christmas. Mercedes Lackey has been one of my favorite writers for a long time. I picked up one of her Valdemar books at a thrift store when I was too young to appreciate it and hated the book.

Then I discovered the Bedlam Bard books and fell in love. They were rare treasures I mandolin-3017726_1280.pngwould search shelves for. That was how I discovered the Serrated Edge series. I loved those too but I hated them as well. Those books turned a flashlight on the dark corners of humanity. They absorbed you as you read them, immersing you in the story until you felt all of the horror and pain but also the hope. It was wonderful and awful at the same time. I read some of them over and over.

horse-175188_1920Years after my first introduction to Valdemar my sister started telling about this book she was reading. It sounded awesome. It had magic, adventure, and was written by one of my favorite authors. Then I found it out it was a Valdemar book. By then I knew Valdemar had quite a large fan base but I don’t like jumping on bandwagons. I honestly thought the Bedlam Bard series was better and that people were fans of the wrong series, even though I had never really given the Valdemar books a chance.

My sister can be quietly demanding when she wants to be. She gives you unspoken orders and you hop to, only later realizing what happened. I don’t think she even realizes that she does it. Which was how I was presented with a stack of Valdemar books from her collection and told to familiarize myself with this world she was always talking about. I devoured them all and came back for more. The storytelling was great. Later as I learned to read as a writer, I picked out a couple of things I thought could have been done differently and made a few of the books better. (In my opinion of course.) I was fool enough to mention these thoughts out loud.

Learn from my mistakes. If you are discussing books with someone who showers a story martial-arts-291049_1280.jpgworld with complete adoration, never ever ever suggest that there is something wrote with it. Ever. Not even if it is just saying that the ending felt a little rushed and you wonder if the author had to hurry through it to make a deadline. Don’t do it. You will regret it. (Unless of course, you are trying to start a fight or have odd compulsion to have the skin ripped from your body with words. If that is your goal then insulting a favored author or book series is an easy way to accomplish it. Even if the slight is only perceived, it will do the job.)

library-425730_1920So after eight books or so I wandered away from Valdemar and on to something else. Then this Winter I was poking around on Amazon, looking for gifts for others when I stumbled across something called “The Herald Spy Trilogy”. I am a sucker for rogues and I enjoy Lackey’s writing so I asked for them for Christmas. I received them, eagerly sat down to read after the holiday craziness was complete, and discovered I had no idea what was going on. References were made to characters I had never heard of. Confused I contacted my local Valdemar informant, A.K.A my sister. She did some google-fu and produced a list of books that come before the trilogy I wanted to read. And to her surprise, she only owned three of the five and they were in storage. (Another long story.)

So I set out to acquire the five books that came before the trilogy I got for Christmas. Then I had to wait for them to be shipped because I bought them online. In the meantime, I got an idea for a book of my own after speaking to a friend and started writing. I managed to get a chapter and a half in when my books acquisitions arrived. I ignored them for a few days but then the person who got me the trilogy started asking questions about if I had read them yet and if I liked them. So feeling guilty for ignoring my gift, I started on the Collegium Chronicles and am now on the fourth book. However, I have only written a couple of paragraphs over the past few days since reading has taken over my writing time.coffee-690421_1920

My writing is suffering from my lack of focus, concentration, and sleep. If Mercedes Lackey wasn’t such a hell of a storyteller I wouldn’t have this problem. The compulsion I feel to read and purchase these books because I enjoy them so much is fascinating. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could be like that one day?

(By the way, during the writing of this blog post I stumbled upon another book in one of Lackey’s series that I haven’t read and ended up buying it too.)

 

 

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Tell the story. Then let someone else read it.

boring_bookRecently I was reading a book of short fiction by an author with more experience and success than I. The stories had interesting ideas driving them but then they fell flat. This author has been published traditionally and has marched the independent path. This particular work was indie published.

I am a big supporter of indie publishing. It gets more of what I like to read in my hands and provides writers with another way to get there stuff out there. It is a tool for the tool box. However, I am not sure I can finish reading this book.

It isn’t bad. Not really. I see some of my own mistakes made by this author and it irritates me. Also I doubt the author uses beta readers. That is a mistake I try not to make. (Not saying I’ve never made it, but I try not to get impatient and toss out stuff that isn’t ready.)

Beta readers are one of the most important tools a writer can have. You really do need thatYou_Keep_Using_That_Word_Meme_FP_Wide second pair of eyes. I know I have written about this before but it is still true. Fresh eyes and a fresh brain see things you will miss. If you spell the wrong word correctly, spell check isn’t going to catch it.

Often writers will read what is supposed to be there rather than what actually is. So get a beta reader. Two or three if you can. Bribe them. Beg them. Whatever it takes. I find coffee, the occasional lunch, or a free book work well for mine. Some will even do it just because they love to read. Make use of your bookish or grammar Nazi friends.

Those personality quirks that may annoy you in everyday life will 6a00d8341c630a53ef013488af5745970c-800wibe indispensable for your writing world.

I will be MIA for the rest of November…probably

nanoThere are eight days left in National Novel Writing Month, and I am around 10,000 words behind where I should be. This is why I did not post this past Monday.  (I honestly lost track of the days of the week again.)  Between kids, work, and writing I’ve been juggling quite a bit.  pooh-and-pigletThanksgiving is next week.  They had activities to celebrate the holiday at my children’s school on Thursday.  Next week I will be joining my family at the dinner table, happy to have good food to share but happier still for the people I will share it with.  I may do a quick post closer to the day, but just in case, I would like to let all who read this know I am thankful for you as well.

magic-book Writers write in private. Without readers our words would never be more than just print on a page.  Writers may sprinkle magic down in the form of words but it takes someone reading it to bring that magic fully to life.  So thank you for taking the time to read my blog and may you all have a blessed November, no matter if you celebrate it with turkey or not.  😉Thanksgiving-Charlie-Brown-Snoopy

 

I write therefore I read

non-fictionI write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I read everything.  Well, almost everything.  On my bookshelves I have everything from ancient Chinese classics to Janet Evanovich.

The past couple of days I’ve been reading non-fiction. I’ve been reading the anecdotes of Appalachian Doctors, a book about poisonous plants, and last night I was reading a magazine article about the back brakes locking in a car and the poisonous-for-dogspossible causes.

Will I ever use any of the things I read?  Who knows?  Maybe. Maybe not.

vintage_childrens_reading_collection_poster-re1e1e6aba9b4490db9a80226b548ae57_26gc_400Reading teaches you the mechanics of writing.  Its more than just grammar and putting down words on paper.  You have to put those words down in such a way that they are entertaining and/or informative.  (If you’ve read dry text books or operating manuals you know that there is a wrong way to do this.)  You want to draw your audience in, not put them to sleep.

You also want to have your facts straight.  Even in Science Fiction or Fantasy where most Holmesthings can explained away by future tech or magic, there is a limit on what you can fake (and get away with it).  I think that having a health reading diet is just as important for the mind as a health food diet is for the body.

 

Yes I am a dork

So this weekend I will only be getting writing done in the early morning (which is when I write best anyway) because I am currently at an Anime convention with a bunch of friends.  Yes, I am a serious Scifi and Fantasy writer and yes I dress up as Japanese Animated characters one weekend a year.

I don’t believe in taking myself too seriously.  I think enjoying the fun things in life is important.  For me, putting on a purple wig and a white coat followed by getting my picture taken while I pose with a bunch of costumed strangers is fun.

If you want to give it a writing spin then walking around in a costume and pretending to be someone else gives me practice thinking like other people, which is helpful with characters.  Also, I write scifi and fantasy.  A lot of Anime fans read scifi and fantasy.  I am rubbing elbows with my readers right now.   Conventions are good for this.  I brought business cards with me, just in case. 🙂