For a writer, drafting a story is all about putting all the thoughts down on paper (or virtual paper) as fast as possible. Often, if not always, this comes at a price. Drafts are messy. They often make us cringe when we read them. Why? For many reasons, but one of them is because we use words that are always the same boring ones, which most of the times break one of the sacred rules of writing: show, don’t tell. One such word is ANGRY. Below is a small list (more words to follow in the coming weeks) of synonyms that we can use instead. As is always the case with synonyms, each word carries a unique inherent meaning, so even though each is a synonym to angry, they don’t always serve as a replacement. Make sure you’re absolutely certain that the word you’re about to use carries the meaning you have in mind.
On a side note, I think I have failed miserably in my attempt to make the colour of the word angry like that of Hulk’s. Not only that, but the font is wrong. *sigh* It shows how little I know about typography and how much I have to work on it.
I hate making new years’ resolutions. In my mind, it’s ridiculous to think one can plan for something so far ahead, because life throws curved balls at us and changes everything. What we plan at the beginning of the year, is planned based on the info and difficulties we are aware of at that moment. The next moment, the Sun may implode and we end up rotating around a red dwarf. One hell of a sight to see, but it’s going to put a little dent on those plans. I believe I’ve said it before: when mortals make plans, gods laugh. Especially if those plans rely on the completion of a whole bunch of other things happening before the resolution comes to fruition. I’m talking about resolutions like, “I want to travel the world from east to west and north to south in a canoe before the end of this year.” A lot of things need to happen before one achieves that. Like learning what a canoe is, and how to navigate in the sea without electronic equipment. So I never, ever do them.
I don’t mind setting small goals, physically and mentally possible. Like, “this year I’m going to learn to count from one to ten in Cantonese.” It’s manageable and doable, even if life throws at me its worse.
All exaggerations aside, I’m more of a person who likes to set goals (see, I’m making a distinction here between goals and resolutions) over which I have control, things that I know for a fact I can make them happen in the immediate future (“this Saturday, I’m going over to Steve’s to reconcile with him after our last week’s argument”). So it’s more like a plan than anything else.
Well, this year, I broke my own rule. I set a goal for me, only it’s actually a resolution.
I will publish my first novel in 2018, I said. It shocked me a couple of weeks after I said it, but my mind insisted on it. 2018 will be the year the world will read my first novel.
A lot of things need to happen between now and 31 December 2018.
1. Have a completed manuscript ready (edited by me at least 20 times, read by betas, and re-edited after their suggestions 5 more times) –> CHECK
2. Have a basic knowledge of how one gets to publish a book –> CHECK
3. Have a list of potential readers who might be interested in reading said book –> CHECK (I have a newsletter, and some of the readers there show genuine interest in talking to me. That’s a start, right?)
4. Have a basic understanding of how a writer can promote their work –> CHECK (though I’m still learning)
5. Have an editor ready to edit the book –> X
6. Have a cover designer ready to craft a cover for it –> X
So now I’m at the point where I’m looking into editors. Line editors, to be exact. Apparently, not many of them go around. Or if there are, a great deal of them bundle copy editing and line editing into one (two different kinds of editing, but I’ll get back to that at a later post). Also, money is an issue. Editor needs to be affordable. Hmm, let me rephrase that: cheaper than what most writers would consider affordable. Take into account the different earnings between Greece and your countries. So, in other words, the editor has to be dirt cheap. Perhaps a line editor who is just starting up their self-employed editing career, and want to attract clients and referrers than anything else.
I’m sure there’s someone like that out there. I’ve already got my eye on a few. I’m waiting for them to reply to my queries and get quotes. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the mean time, TL;DR (too long; didn’t read): 2018 will be the year I will publish my first novel.
Admittedly, the one I thing I’ve missed the most during the past few months when I started at my new job is being able to read as much as I used to. Between commuting to work (which luckily enough in my case is under an hour), spending eight hours there, attending to issues at home, spending time with the family, taking a little bit of time for myself (it doesn’t include reading or writing), and of course editing/writing, there’s hardly any time left to read during weekdays. To be honest, there’s hardly enough time to write. I have an app on my phone, a simple counter, where I’ve added the number of books I’ve read per year. I’m not a fast reader, but the average was 20-22 books. Now? It’s October and I just reached double digits. Yeap, it’s shameful.
What makes it worse is that what I’m reading is actually very interesting (rejoice sci-fi fans – it’s The Expanse series).
A few weeks ago, I mentioned my betas gave me their feedback on my latest cyberpunk novel (still not in shape for your eyes, I’m afraid). In their notes, one point stood out more than others: some scenes were repetitive.
I wasn’t prepared for this. But they were right, as always.
Last week, I started revising based on my betas’ feedback. Start with the big issues, I said to myself, move on to the smaller ones (like my innumerable typos, which caused my spell checker to crush – don’t laugh, because that’s what happens when you write sci-fi and you invent words, names, and terms). Bigger issues meant tackling those pesky repetitive scenes. By creating new ones.
So there I was, back on my ancient PC (thank you autumn for remembering to visit Greece and for allowing me to turn my PC on once more), trying to come up with a couple new scenes. And…
Seriously, nothing. If you want to know the truth it scared the $h!t out of me. Why couldn’t I write? My intention was to change the chase and escape scenes, since most of the betas comments about repetitive scenes was about them. It shouldn’t have been too hard, since the betas didn’t have a problem with the plot per se, which meant the beginning and the ending of those scenes were set. All I had to do was change the setting and I’d have a basic draft to work with. On the other hand, escape and chase scenes don’t offer much in terms of variety. Something bad happens, the hero has to run for his/her life, and either makes it or not. The only thing that can limit a writer is the world the writer has created for the hero. In other words, you can’t have a dragon saving the hero if you’ve created a hard sci-fi cyberpunk story and you haven’t included dragons in the first place. It took me two days to come up with an inkling of an idea. Which, of course, in the end created a plot hole.
Luckily, the first idea created another, and another, and another, until the problem was solved, but I mean, come on. Two days?! For one idea? A bad one at that?!
Did I exhaust my storytelling skill after two books? Did the pool of ideas writers supposedly have dry out after two novels, a dozen short stories and poems, and a few hundred thousand written words?
No. well, I don’t think so, anyway.
What was the reason? I believe it was because I hadn’t been reading enough. I hadn’t had enough mental stimulation these past few months, even though I managed to save a couple of hours during the weekends for reading. It just wasn’t enough. Add to all this that I haven’t read a good cyberpunk novel for a long time to get inspired, you can see why there was a problem in my inspiration and idea reservoir.
So, dear readers, fellow writers and other creative people, the answer to such problems is immerse yourself in the work of others. Learn from them, make them part of you, take them apart, study the way others created their stories, their songs, their painting, and recreate something unique, something that could have only been done by you. Allow the creator to transport you to new and wonderful places. Let the ideas of others inspire you. If you want to write, then you have to read a lot. I imagine the same principle applies to all other forms of art.
For the record, after I managed to tap into my inspiration pool, I wrote 2000 in three days. It’s not a lot, if you consider that I used to write 2000 words a day when I had the whole day to myself and nothing else but writing and reading to do, but it feels good nonetheless.
Confession time folks. I haven’t submitted a new short story to any literary magazine since Xmas 2016. At that time, I submitted a cyberpunk short story which, as of writing this, will be the basis for a future novel. The story is still under consideration by that magazine (yes, it can take this long, and sometimes even longer), and it’s officially the story that has taken the longest to get a response. The fact remains though: since then, I haven’t submitted any other short story nor have I written a new one. Now, I’m about to submit two: a flash fiction one and a short one, both written more than a year ago.
The reason? I was too busy editing and revising my novels. Too busy submitting my first novel to agents. Too busy wrapping my head around promotion and marketing strategies for my self-published work. Too busy with a new job. Too busy with parents’ health problems. Too busy in general.
I started drafting both stories way back in 2016. Late spring, if my memory serves me. Nothing new since then. I don’t think I’m going through a dry spell (God, I hope not). It’s just that I’ve focused on longer stories than short ones. I don’t know if I’ll work on another short piece any time soon (at some point, I probably will, perhaps a teaser prequel to one of my novels), but for the time being I feel I should focus on novels. Especially now that I’ve had a taste of the turbulent waters of self-publishing.
So for me, submitting these two stories is a big deal. Wish me luck, folks. I’ve set the bar high for both.
Many thanks to all those who read earlier and badly written versions of this story, and provided me with precious feedback.
The reviewer of Viking Reviews was kind enough to review The Man Behind The Bar on their blog, and it has been a stellar one. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything as encouraging and positive for my own work. Getting positive feedback from people I’ve never met before in my life is quite overwhelming, and I’m grateful for it. I’m very happy this story has accumulated so much positive feedback, even though it’s not one of my familiar genres. It motivates me for the future.
Okay, enough self-worship for one day. You can read the review here. If you’re looking for something new to read and don’t know if it’s going to be up to your expectations, have a look around the books reviewed by Viking Reviews. Lots of titles there, as well as other things that may be interested in. You may also want to keep them under consideration for your work.