From Exposition to Resolution

Stardate 95717.53

I have many problems. C’mon now, they’re writing problems. It took me weeks to figure out my story’s ending and even then I knew that all the pieces weren’t going to be resolved in one book. (Read my prior blog post about that particular issue here). Now the problem is everything in between.

This is something that has followed me from my fan fiction writing days. I have never been able to finish a story – it just keeps going on and on and on and….well, you get the picture. Think about that graphic – the one from high school English or Creative Writing class. This one:

story arc

Now this is the most basic of basic plot graph you can find. It doesn’t even have the same word I use in my title. Then there’s this graphic:

arcs

I’d say that kind of thing would accurately represent the J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Ring’s novels. (And now the theme song is stuck in my head. Thanks brain). I highly doubt that Firedamp is ever going to be that complicated, maybe that first little bump on the left hand side, but not the twenty bumps after.

It’s that first section of bumps that encouraged me to have not one outline but multiple outlines. I am positive that by the end of this I’ll also have a “family tree” of sorts on my home office wall showing how each character is connected to each other. I would rather have them all connect somehow than to have one random individual off in La La Land dancing around like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Unless they have a purpose.

And all that’s the challenge of writing, isn’t it? How to not make your novel feel like a cancelled TV show that has a cliffhanger ending that leaves you wondering what the point of even writing it? I always thought that finding the ending was the hardest part, but now that I have both that and the beginning, now it is everything in between. That’s all part of the adventure that I think I’m slightly scared of because they say that you write a bit of yourself into each character. Baring that little bit of soul can be intimidating and you don’t know who can read between the lines.

But you know what? That’s okay. In order to make your characters be ones folks will want to know more about you gotta bare your soul so they have soul. And when there’s that soul you can easily go from the exposition to the resolution.


I know it’s from The Hobbit film instead of LOTR but it’s in my head!


Why I Gave Up On Wattpad

Stardate 95645.98

Community. It’s something I think every writer seeks to be a part of whether they want to admit it or not. We crave reviewers, feedback and opinions from others who may be more experienced in the field even though we may disagree with it at the same time. That’s why a place like Wattpad seems so appealing. It’s a community of other writers and readers who crave new stories, but who also crave being taken seriously as they write. There are downsides, however, to this kind of format and that’s what I’ll be exploring in today’s blog post. So let’s dive right into my thinking here with my Top 3 Reasons for Why I Gave Up on Wattpad.

1: Fan fictions
Now I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions (and some readers of this blog may strongly disagree with me on this). Far from it. Writing fan fiction was partly how I got my inspiration to write an actual novel.  I grew up writing Star Trek stories (before I even knew what the term fan fiction actually was) and it morphed into Supernatural stories in my college years. There’s, most likely, more words in my Supernatural fan fictions than there were in four years’ worth of college papers combined. There is an overwhelming number of fan fictions for every fandom you can think of. Kpop bands? There’s fan fiction for that. Supernatural? Of course. Ninja turtles? Yep. Anime, manga and OST? Definitely.

Let me return to my original premise: I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions. I had one, based off Supernatural, called Sam in Wonderland, that I thoroughly enjoyed writing. The problem with it, though, was that I could never seem to finish it. And since it was an un-publishable fan fiction, I just kept it going. But here’s a pro for stories such as these: there are some truly amazing ones out there. And Wattpad does give non-traditional writers a place to practice and find others who enjoy what they do as well.

Solution: If you want to get good feedback on a story you eventually want to publish either through traditional means or self-publishing, finding someone to critique your work who has been in the biz may prove incredibly useful. You may argue about scenes you love verses what they may see as not part of the story, but that’s what they’re there for. And fan fictions may even turn into a potential episode script (we’ve seen it happen before! Let’s face it, The Orville is basically one big Star Trek fan fiction within itself!)

2: Noise
Wattpad boasts a “large reading audience” but it can be very overwhelming and difficult to get “noticed.” Unless, of course, you write something that’s trending or popular. There’s a rather uncomfortable level of sexy stories with incredibly mature themes that anyone of any age can read. I love finding new stories, but I have the same problem with my Amazon Kindle that I do Wattpad – there’s a never-ending supply of new books and stories and sometimes ones with potential fall through the cracks. You can tailor your searches but I found myself browsing more than reading and never actually posting stories myself.

3: Potential for Theft
This is something that makes me nervous about posting something on a website – anyone can just copy-paste your story and try to pass it off as their own. Of course plagiarism exists even when a book is actually published and in readers’ hands (flashback to high school English class with the MLA Handbook for research papers and how to not plagiarize), and the website does require you to have an account before you can even browse for something to read. So I don’t think that I would ever want to have a story up on an unsecured site where anyone can just grab it for their own. Call me paranoid but unfortunately you can’t be too careful in today’s world with everything from debit card information to stories.

Final Thoughts
While Wattpad and other sites like it may be overwhelming for some they can be incredibly useful tools for others. Some have had success and Wattpad itself even has a list of books that started out as stories online. But there are those who, like myself, definitely prefer the “old school” way of publishing. Sometimes a place like Wattpad can be too “noisy” and other types of free software can help minimize distractions. Everyone has their own methods and what helps them write. If Wattpad is that for you, then by all means. If finding critique partners is it, go for it. The publishing world can be competitive but that doesn’t mean we have to stomp on anyone’s toes to get there. This blog may have been slightly tongue-and-cheek so I hope it made sense to someone out there!


The Complex Nature of Working Titles and Accidental Fan Fictions

Stardate 95587.96

Working titles are just that: working titles. When I first started this journey into this novel (that’s going on two years now), I was convinced I wanted to name it Carrick. In Pittsburgh history, Carrick is a historic neighborhood founded in the 1700s and was not given the name Carrick until the 1853 when it officially became a borough at the request of Dr. John O’Brien. In the 1920s it officially became part of Pittsburgh suburbia and is the location of the historical Wigman house. The Wigman family may make a brief appearance in this novel, but who knows!

As I dove deeper into my research I came across mining terminology, and one such combustible item stuck in my mind. I don’t want to mention it here for fear that A: someone else would like the term or B: there’s already a book with the same title.

Not only did I end up with two working titles, I gained two separate story lines as well. Let me tell you – that confused me even more! It wasn’t until I was halfway through the first chapter of the second version that I realized I was fully basing it off one of my new favorite shows, When Calls the Heart, where the town begins life as, surprise surprise, a coal town. My mind’s eye was picturing their town houses, their families, and their geography. Several problems arose: Pennsylvania isn’t Canada. Pennsylvania didn’t have Mounties and Canada didn’t have canals. I was basically writing a glorified fan fiction.

That’s part of the danger right there: letting your mind become distracted from your original goal and allowing your fan fiction-writing past over influence your own novel. The first half of my writing “career” was mostly in the form of Star Trek and Supernatural fan fiction novellas – many of which I never finished – and I refuse to let myself get sucked back in. They were what helped shape my decision to actually write a full fledged novel. I’ll admit it right now: I’m scared. Scared of never actually writing it. Scared of the rejection letters. Scared of not having the funds to have a really good editor or someone having faith in the story to want to edit it in the first place. I’m not seasoned like many of my favorite authors who are able to crank out stories because it’s their second nature. They know their characters inside and out. I’m still just treading water, waiting to do that butterfly meter race and win with a published book.

Step one: Have confidence in myself.
Step two: Complete my outline.
Step three: Be brave enough to find someone to critique it.

When you write you pour a bit of yourself into each and every story. It’s like putting your heart on your sleeve and I haven’t had great results with that before. But this time. With this novel – regardless of if the name Carrick sticks or not – I will complete it.


Apparently “Beta Readers” Are a Thing

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When I first ventured into this new phase of my life I never knew there was such a thing as a “beta reader.” As I looked more into it the more I realized that maybe I should find a few of my own. But then that “fear” crept up again. You know…the fear

Of course in Rachel’s case it’s fear of quitting her job and making something of her life, but I think the same concept applies here. I’ve been afraid of showing others not only what I’ve written so far but how little of it I’ve actually produced.

But then I realized that that is what I have been craving. I needed input. Someone to tell me whether they like it or hate it. Whether it’s a storyline they’ve read before or not. Whether it’s something they think is marketable, relevant, or fresh. I think it’s something every writer has to face some day – the criticism. I think that that is what’s been causing the mental block in my head from continuing with what I have already. Now thankfully I think I’ve found someone with whom I can share these fears, a fellow writer who is also working on her first novel as well.

There’s still that trepidation though, of whether or not you’ve chosen the right person, but beta readers are a necessary part of the writing process, and there’s only doing, not just trying. (Though I’m sure I’m butchering that phrase just now!)


It’s Okay to Take a Break

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For the past six months I have been researching. Researching so much that I felt overloaded with information and that overload caused me to have to take a break. I find myself still staring at four library books I’m praying are not overdue. But that’s when I realized, two weeks ago, that I needed a break. I felt boxed in by my own tiny office and desktop. I felt the drive leak away. I really had burnt myself out.

But with Spring in the air, a new laptop, and new resolve, I know I need to keep going. I need to finish at least one story I’ve started in my life. I’ve always found that to be my weak link. I get an idea. Start it. And then complicate it so much that I don’t think I’m good enough to get myself out of it.

That’s when I realized that I absolutely HAVE to keep going with Carrick. I need to keep chasing this dream I’ve had since I was a child. My biggest problem is I don’t have a proper outlet. I don’t think I mean outlet. I have the social media outlet. I suppose I mean like-minded folks in my own town with whom I can relate, but the introvert in me is rearing its head. So please excuse today’s ramblings. It’s time to get back to work!


Lazy Language: A Short Analysis of Linguistic Pet Peeves

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Picture it.

You’re sitting in a café, in your favorite spot on the patio with your favorite drink when someone says it. That. Phrase. The phrase that sends chills up and down your spine. The phrase that your friends can’t understand why it makes you uneasy. I am sure that there is a psychological study out there that sufficiently explains why our bodies react the way they do but I am no neurobiologist who can find that easily. I can, however, sum it up into two simple words: Lazy Language. The problem is that everyone uses it, and everyone has their own pet peeves when it comes to it.

The “Delish” Culture 

Advertising is everything. Companies will be forever pushing the next season of products long before the current one has finished. When television shows coin their own terms, like “delish,” we all embrace it. Advertising has become so engrained in our American culture that it is almost expected. Catch phrases are so commercialized that companies spend millions to have theirs air during major sporting events. Can the think tank behind this be appeased by all of us turning our devices off to it? Most likely, no. But it is by no means lazy. Scores of research and debate goes into what is eventually put out. And while it’s not always steeped in proper grammar it gets stuck in your head. That’s why I consider advertising a pet peeve because every one of us buys into it on some level. The key: don’t let the ever-constant consumerism overtake your daily life and influence your decisions in the wrong way.

The “Thank You Much!” Culture

It is no secret that language changes with everything else. No one speaks Shakespearean anymore unless they’re in a literature class, an artist, or an aspiring play write. Who would walk up to a complete stranger and start using wherefores and thereofs? While it is completely romantic to fantasize about that period, it is rather impractical.

“If I profane with my unworthied hand
this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”                   ~Romeo~

Undoubtedly romantic, but outdated nonetheless. It’s been replaced by shortened phrases spoken out loud that should remain in text form, i.e. LOL, ROTFL, OMG, just to name the acronyms. “Thank you much,” in this writer’s mind, is just as cringe-worthy. We are starting to sacrifice daily conversation in the interest of getting things done more quickly. And in my mind, it just doesn’t work.


What are some words or phrases you hear in your daily lives that make you cringe? Perhaps it would be prudent to find out why they cause you so much angst. What’s worked for me is taking steps to eliminate the habits from my own life. I constantly resist the urge to use “lol” overbearingly in Tweets and texts (though not always completely successful), and I think carefully before I speak to make sure I don’t make any more linguistic faux pas to better verse myself in varied word choice.

But to each their own, I suppose. We can only focus on our own habits; we cannot force the world to always use proper grammar. Heaven knows this casual blog attempted to do so at 10 PM on a Sunday evening.

Happy reading.
Happy writing.
Keep Calm and Research On.


Why You Should Research Your Historical Novel

Stardate 94766.96: #writetip

Every writer has to start somewhere. Every potential author needs to know that they don’t know everything. That, quite honestly, is one of the cold hard truths of the fast-paced publishing world. When I started this book last September, all I had was one tiny idea. One tiny element that would eventually grow to be this beast of a project where I am consistently learning new things.

If you’re going to write about a certain time period, KNOW that time period. You can’t write on the mid 1800s if all you’ve seen on the subject is a single film version of Jane Eyre. You have to immerse yourself in it. Be analytical of the content you find and be extremely picky of what you choose to include in your own nonfiction.

For first-time writers the task can be daunting at first. It was for me when I realized how little I knew. Some authors can pick up their pen and crank out half a novel in a night. Don’t let yourself become discouraged if you find yourself getting stuck. That’s what the research there is for! If you’re not sure what type of hat your character could have worn, or why they believe what they believe, or if the town you chose for your backdrop is the proper setting for your climax, research it.

Another truth: readers will know, and want to know, why you chose the details you put in. Your readers will also be able to pick up on false facts, especially if you’re writing something historical. Granted, it will be your take on events that actually happened, but be prepared to be able to explain the why.

Is research daunting? Yes. But you will not only find connections in the process but gain a wealth of knowledge on your subjects that you may otherwise have never known.


Speaking of Libraries

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Stardate 94505.05: #WTOTD

If you are looking for a library to research in and you are in the Pittsburgh area, I suggest stopping by the Northland Public Library. Not only is their staff incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but they have a tiny little snack store with a microwave where you can refuel if you want to keep working. Not only that but they offer classes on everything from basic computer skills to crafting, the Virtual Book Shelf, Bookmobile, meeting rooms and more. It has become one of my favorite places to visit for research material and it is consistently busy with several schools being nearby. So there’s my simple Tip of the Day. Nothing on this website is sponsored, but as I work more on my novel I’ll be exploring other local libraries.


Locations Locations Locations

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#WQOTD: Writing Question of the Day

Question: How many locations do I really want to attempt to squeeze into my historical novel? There are so many in one State alone that it is difficult to narrow it down. All of them have potential and fit into my time frame.

Answer: Outline. Outline outline outline. I believe I have passed the point in my research where it is time to hash out the chain of events necessary to get me from Location A to B to C. Remember:

Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Resolution


Books vs E-Readers

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Have you ever noticed that books all, for the most part, have the same smell? When you walk into a modern shop the scent is that of new pages. Fresh. Where glossy and matte pages alike wait to be read for the first time. It’s in these establishments where new books are released, parties are hosted and coffee is brewed.

Let’s travel down the beaten side street to a place called…well…the name wore off the sign years ago but everybody local still knows the name. A bell tingles above as another shopper exits, book in hand, and holds the door open for you. You thank them as you cross the threshold and inhale deeply, letting the thick wooden door behind you click shut.

With shelves climbing to the ceiling you are transported to another dimension, one where adventure is itching to happen. This place doesn’t sell digital media, vinyls or 8 tracks. There’s no electronic card catalogue and the labels on the spines are from a sticker pricing gun. This is more like it. That smell reminds you of your grandmother’s bookshelf that housed copies from the 1970s. Their bindings are weak but your grandma still lets you read the one about the Loch Ness Monster for the twentieth time. You bring the book to your nose and inhale, bringing you back to the shop you’re in now. The clerk asks if you’re looking for anything in particular. “Not today,” you reply. You’re just looking. Who knows what you may find. She nods, understanding, and goes back to her own read.

Enter in digital media.

Libraries have always been supported by communities as places to gsther, learn and preserve history. Without libraries, or museums for that matter, it is feasible that much knowledge would have been lost. Without ink and parchment there would have not been the movable type. Without the movable type there would have not been the printing press. From there we gained mailing services, mechanical computers, and every invention in between that led to the modern day tablet.

In the 1930s a man by the name of Bob Brown dreamt up the concept of electronic books. He dubbed the device:

A machine that will allow us to keep up with the vast volume of print available today and be optically pleasing  (Bob Brown, ‘The Readies’)

And boy did we deliver…seventy years later. We have the Kindle by Amazon, the Sony e-reader, the Kobo, the Nook and more. Let’s not forget the countless apps that enables amateur writers to showcase their own writing and read others as well.

As a pre-teen I remember worrying that there wouldn’t be any pages to turn because I did not like the idea of an e-reader. I remember thinking it was silly for Barnes N Noble to advertise something like the Nook in a place that sold actual books. What is also interesting to note is I was (and still am) fully in support of a world where Star Trek could one day exist. Where all information was stored for instant access inside data cores. So you would think that I would have been open to the idea of having something like that to carry with me.

You are wrong. I was afraid that bookstores would disappear forever and I, without a doubt did not want to contribute to that. While some larger book chains have been downsizing printed books are not disappearing as quickly as I feared. Authors and readers who grew up like I did still love the feeling of a cover beneath our fingers. But, in this digital age, there are a few advantages to having electronic books available. Let’s take a look at a few of them now:

1. Convenience. So you finally booked that summer flight to Florida beach for R&R and you’re preparing to pack. What is spread out on the bed before you? Clothes? Check. Toiletries? Check. Travel info? Check. Books? All the ones you have chosen will cause your bag to go over the alotted weight limit. What do you do? You know you can easily go through one or two a day. Seven days. Seven books. Not enough space. Enter in the e-reader. Once you purchase a book and save it to your device, it is yours to keep. You can reread it like any physical book because you paid for it. And because you know you have at least two new reads ready to go you toss it in your purse instead.

Disadvantage: Making sure to remember the power cable.

2. Encouragement. For most bookworms it is almost unfathomable to hear someone comment that they don’t read. Don’t READ?! How is that even possible?! Illiteracy still exists in the United States amongst all the age groups. And there are others who know how to read who just choose not to. The e-readers, especially those with access to more apps, I feel greatly encourages them to think about trying the reader app out. Instant access to all levels of books and material supports readers and authors alike, and maybe if they begin to enjoy ebooks they will come to support libraries as well.

3. Innovation. A perfect example of ebook innovation comes from the recent reestablishment of Reading Rainbow (no, this blog is not sponsored by then whatsoever. They are just a great, current example of modern technology). From 1983 to 2006, Reading Rainbow opened the world of imagination to generations of young minds. I was greatly amused as a child that LeVar Burton taught us about books by day and repaired starships as Geordi LaForge by night on The Next Generation. There had always been the hope that Reading Rainbow would return but instead we got something even better. LeVar and the R.R team began a Kickstarter campaign to begin a new concept – online learning tools to teach a new generation to love reading. Without platforms such as tablets and e-readers, and without the fervent enthusiasm of the donors to support them, Reading Rainbow would have remained a thing of the past. It is encouraging, interactive and, as with any learning tool, constantly changing.

4. Library Supported. Not only is there the above example of reading apps, many libraries also have e-books available for borrowing add well. All you need is a library card, an account through their website and an app that supports their format. Many moms I know love the ease of it, especially when it is not always convenient to get to a physical library.

Doesn’t there seem to be an awful lot of pros to this “debate” in favor of e-readers? When you look at the overall picture, e-readers and physical Books have formed a symbiotic relationship:

Symbiosis: noun, biology. interaction between two different organisims living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.

While the definition of symbiosis is technically of a scientific nature it can be applied to the world of words as well. In this ever-changinf age of technological advancement it was inevitable that someone would bring Bob Brown’s prediction to reality. A true reader will be able to appreciate both forms of literature.

While I  still prefer connecting worth other readers in the physical realm of books, I do enjoy being able to find a series or author online that I otherwise would never have known. You can find readers everywhwre. You can find authors, bookstores, librarians, historians, preservationists…everywhere. even though e-readers don’t “smell” like a bookstore, don’t immediately dismiss such a useful tool without trying it first. You may surprise yourself. Just find the best fit for you.