agilebrit: (Write Dammit)
This is the text of a talk I gave at the League of Utah Writers last night. I leave it here in the hopes that someone will find it useful.

Okay, so. I used to be an inveterate pantser. Usually, nowadays, I plot. Mostly because there's far less desire to defenestrate my computer.

We are all voracious readers, here, right? That means we know wholly by instinct how Story is supposed to work. My first novel, I wrote completely by accident, no lie. I had a vague setup in my head, and the first chapter made the rest of it inevitable. I didn't know that at the time, of course, and it wasn't until I was 25,000 words into it that I was willing to use the n-word--no, not that one. "NOVEL." *shudder* I had no idea how that sucker was going to end and didn't even realize who my main protagonist was until I was deciding whether or not he was going to die (again) about 70,000 words in. WHEE. It was kind of exhilarating.

But when I went back and retroactively wrote up a synopsis for it, I found that I'd instinctively used the seven-point plot structure, before I even knew what that was or why it was useful. We. Know. Story. It's hardwired.

Now, figuring out the most efficient way of getting Story from our brain to the page can be an issue. Writer Brain is funny. Pantsing gives you that "Ohmygosh, what happens next" kick, but waiting for inspiration to strike--or, worse, getting absolutely stuck because you've written yourself into a corner--is super frustrating. I can't tell you how many times I had to yell at my characters to TALK TO ME DAMMIT. Sometimes they complied. And sometimes I had to replace a computer and a window. For me, having it be the last thing I thought about at night and the first thing I thought about upon waking, and then having inspiration strike in the shower, was very common. And still is, for that matter, even with an outline. Sometimes going for a walk, or talking it over with someone, or a change of scenery also helps.

Plotting means you don't have to wait for inspiration. You know what happens next, yay! All you have to do is write it. The words flow from your keyboard like a waterfall. And then lay there on the page like a dead carp. You know what happens next? Then why bother writing the thing at all? Where's the joy of discovery? Oh, hey, that cool idea you just had? Sorry, Charlie, it won't fit and furthermore totally messes up everything else you've planned meticulously from here on out. Pop it in the Plot Bunny Hutch; maybe you can use it later in something else.

Orrrr... Incorporate it and re-do your outline. Because one mistake a lot of plotters make is thinking their outline is written in stone. It's not. That cool new idea might be just the thing to breathe life into your dead carp. That being said, don't discard the original outline, because that cool new idea might also be one that derails the whole thing into the tall grass. There's gators and rattlers in there. Be careful, and realize that you can also discard that cool new idea if it means you've got venomous snakes snapping at your butt.

Keep in mind that the magic of writing happens in edits. If you're pantsing, you can go back and insert all that neato foreshadowing you didn't know you needed, and people will think you're brilliant. Those dead-carp words you outlined so carefully, that are now just lying on the page? You can edit those into beautiful goldfish. You can't edit a blank page.

The Cardinal Rule of Writing is:
Do what works for you.

Scratch 20 writers, you'll find 30 processes. Sometimes a process that works great with one project completely falls apart with another. And that's okay and perfectly normal.

BE FLEXIBLE. TRY EVERYTHING.
agilebrit: (Urge to bitchslap)
So, I just read a blog post by someone whining about the business. And, wow. She is doing everything wrong.

She was told by someone to take the non-paying markets off her "sold" resume, and interpreted that as the person trying to "bring her down." But that's because non-paying markets do not count for diddly-squat on a "sold stories" resume. Those weren't "sold"--they were given away. And the odds do indeed suck, especially if someone is trying to sell a 200,000-word doorstop fantasy, and it's their first novel. My advice would be to trunk that until selling something else with some success, and then pipe up and say "By the way, I've got this thing you might also be interested in." After all, if Brandon Sanderson was working on his 13th doorstop fantasy when he finally sold his sixth, what makes her so special? I have my doubts that she is the next Patrick Rothfuss, because no one is. Can it happen? Sure? Will it? Not bloody likely.

She goes on to whine about "nearly nonexistent" paying short story markets. Funny, I can think of eleven SF/F markets off the top of my head that pay professional rates of five cents a word or more, and probably twenty more that pay less than that but still pay. You don't "pay dues" or whatever BS they used to feed you by getting published in small markets first; you sub to the big ones first and let them reject you before dropping your sights. Sometimes you even get feedback, even from places like Tor and F&SF. If you're not entering Writers of the Future on a quarterly basis, why not? If you're not subbing to F&SF and Tor and Strange Horizons and Analog and Asimov's... why not? If all or most of your extant stories aren't sitting in editors' inboxes--WHY NOT?

If you're not willing to keep slogging at it even when rejection after rejection after rejection hits your inbox, then this business--and it is a business--is not for you. It really does take ten years to become an overnight success, and that first million words? Is practice. If you're very good, you might get paid for some of them. Don't count on it. Those dues I mentioned up there? Your first million words are your dues.

And I say this as someone who's been banging my head against professional markets since 2006, and who usually takes a submission hiatus in December. Fourteen of my stories are out. Three more will be by the end of the week. Never give up, never surrender, and keep up the psychotic persistence. That is the only way to make it in this wacky, weird, sometimes awful business.

Dear LJ:

Feb. 20th, 2013 09:14 pm
agilebrit: (I'm a terrible person)
Yes. I realize I'm using the old version of the friends page. That's because I like it. Your new one-size-fits-all "friends feed" is fugly and non-functional.

Seriously, I tried to customize it, using the (very very limited, and boring) new colors for the header things. And it didn't work.

I might be more reconciled to this thing you're inflicting on us if I could have a banner rather than a background image. Considering the fact that a background image will be almost completely covered by content, it's friggin' useless. Let me have a pretty picture at the top and I may consider not jumping ship to DW when you make this trainwreck permanent.

In even more silly news, now that I've customized it, it's giving me the old version of the friends page and telling me that I'm using the new one. So, way to go, guys. That's awesome. Idiots.

No love,
[livejournal.com profile] agilebrit, who has two paid accounts and extra userpics on a third and will not renew if you keep up this ridiculousness. Not that you care because I am old and have been here for years, so that's apparently not the demographic you're shooting for.

In other news, I have a new icon. *points* And I really need to sit down and outline this new story. Also, I realized that Boy has a Scout thing this weekend and so going to Colorado is... problematic. *sigh*
agilebrit: (Headdesk)
...still have not rebooted my writing brain. This is getting ridiculous. This morning, I looked at the notes the Hubby made for the ghost ship story and I'm just... bleh. I know how to fix it, but fixing it is going to require a good two thousand more words and I'm kind of tired of writing fiction that's not marketable because it's too damn long. It's already at 5500 words and I don't see how I justify another two thousand for a story like this unless I can turn it into some kind of commentary on the human condition instead of a rather silly and fun ghost story.

*headdesk x1000*

In other news, we saw "Madagascar 3" the other day and enjoyed it thoroughly. Anyone who's seen the Cirque du Soleil will recognize the set-pieces, which are visually gorgeous. Now I want to go to Vegas and see another show. The Hubby and the Boy have never seen it, and they need to.

Today, we're going to see "Brave." Which looks awesome. Pixar has yet to disappoint. And, I don't care what anyone says, I also need "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" in my life and will go see it next week when Hubby and Boy are at Scout Camp, because it's rated R and thus inappropriate for Boy, and Hubby doesn't want to see it. Horror's just not his genre. I may inflict "Cabin in the Woods" on him when I get it on DVD, because I thought it was brilliant.
agilebrit: (Over My Head)
Gyah, yes, I realize I promised pictures. And I will post them. Eventually. I swear. Today has been full of busy-ness, however. I scribbled 1200 words and am now sitting at 13,800, in the Won His Soul story. I outlined the coming events in a somewhat coherent manner as well, so I know how I'm getting to the end from here. I discussed a collaboration with my lovely and effulgent RP Partner for an Actual Fiction Story for submission to Writers of the Future and Other Venues. I gave Ben rabies, which is, for the record, a horrible way to die. You may consider that a warning.

I also went to the bank, and I now have enough money saved up for WorldCon to stay in the hotel and eat. All other money I save will be walking-around cashola. This weekend is CONduit, where the writer Guest of Honor is Tamora Pierce. In a fit of efficiency, I actually bought and read one of her books before meeting her, so I won't be a blithering idiot. The book was "Terrier," and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So this post isn't a total loss for y'all, I leave you with a photo I shot five minutes from my house, of a Scottish Highland cow and calf:

HOW CUTE ARE THESE ANIMALS. 1024x768. )
agilebrit: (Tony: Actual Anteaters)
Well, I un-stalled myself on the Won His Soul story this afternoon by the simple expedient of having Kaveh's test be "his best friend is ill" rather than "some random villager we hadn't met yet is ill." And I have now cracked 11,000 words and know what his next test will be, although not how I'll get to it yet.

My job is to put my characters through as much living hell as possible. Oddly, I'm all right with that...
agilebrit: (Facepalm2)
So LJRP ate my brain and a good portion of my life for a really long time. And I met some terrific people and I've had a blast, but it wasn't good for me on a professional level, because all my creative juice was going into that instead of writing I could, you know, get paid for.

But. After a discussion with my main RP partner about how out-of-control this had gotten, I've cut back on the RP and am back on the writing horse again; I've completed another short story starring Ben that is not filled with angst and death, and I'm 10K words into a novelette that should come in around 15K if all goes as planned (HAH).

During the time I was RPing, I continued subbing my stuff, and there's nothing new on the acceptance front, although I seem to be getting a better class of rejections these days, even on my older stuff, so IDEK.

Also, I'm going to WorldCon in Chicago this year; I have my membership bought and the hotel room reserved, and roomies. So that'll be cool.

Anyone still here? Or has everybody migrated over to DW because of LJ's asshattery?
agilebrit: (Facepalm2)
I really should stop hanging around Yahoo!Answers for awhile. Kids on my lawn are driving me crazy.

Exhibit A:
LITERARY AGENTS NEEDED!?
I need a literary agent badly! They need to be interested in new teenage authors. Also interested in short story collections, that are... A bit twisted.


Don't we all need a literary agent, honey. And that's not a question, and therefore I didn't use a question mark. Go out and find one, because they're not going to knock on your door. Short story collection? Yeah, I've got eighteen stories sitting on my hard drive that would love to be in a collection. Collections for unknown authors don't happen. Get off your hiney and start subbing to publications. Be prepared for rejection. Lots of it.

Exhibit B:
Where can i get paid to write short stories?
I'm looking for information or links to journals, magazines, publishers seeking short stories. I will write anything including erotic stories for pay!


Yeah, hey, if you can find that Magical Journal that was actually seeking short stories the way you mean it, point me that way. That ain't how publishing works. Write the story and then start sending it out. Those guys aren't going to knock on your door either.

Exhibit C:
Why do I suck at writing stories?
I am great at poetry and essays (I'm not being conceited; I'm just stating the facts. lolz) and I am also great with coming up with story ideas (not in my opinion, but according to other people.). But, when it comes to actually trying to write a story, I always get frustrated at myself and give up! I keep comparing my writing to authors I love, which I know I shouldn't do. I should find my own writing style and not try to imitate others, but I can't help it!


Do you think that novels spring, fully-formed and complete, from the foreheads of writers? NO. Months and sometimes years of blood, sweat, tears, booze, swearing, and revision after revision after revision after revision. Sure, what you buy in the bookstore, penned by your favorite author, is going to be brilliant--they didn't just whack out a first draft and send it in. Their first drafts suck too, believe me.

Good god.
agilebrit: (Facepalm2)
I really should stop hanging around Yahoo!Answers for awhile. Kids on my lawn are driving me crazy.

Exhibit A:
LITERARY AGENTS NEEDED!?
I need a literary agent badly! They need to be interested in new teenage authors. Also interested in short story collections, that are... A bit twisted.


Don't we all need a literary agent, honey. And that's not a question, and therefore I didn't use a question mark. Go out and find one, because they're not going to knock on your door. Short story collection? Yeah, I've got eighteen stories sitting on my hard drive that would love to be in a collection. Collections for unknown authors don't happen. Get off your hiney and start subbing to publications. Be prepared for rejection. Lots of it.

Exhibit B:
Where can i get paid to write short stories?
I'm looking for information or links to journals, magazines, publishers seeking short stories. I will write anything including erotic stories for pay!


Yeah, hey, if you can find that Magical Journal that was actually seeking short stories the way you mean it, point me that way. That ain't how publishing works. Write the story and then start sending it out. Those guys aren't going to knock on your door either.

Exhibit C:
Why do I suck at writing stories?
I am great at poetry and essays (I'm not being conceited; I'm just stating the facts. lolz) and I am also great with coming up with story ideas (not in my opinion, but according to other people.). But, when it comes to actually trying to write a story, I always get frustrated at myself and give up! I keep comparing my writing to authors I love, which I know I shouldn't do. I should find my own writing style and not try to imitate others, but I can't help it!


Do you think that novels spring, fully-formed and complete, from the foreheads of writers? NO. Months and sometimes years of blood, sweat, tears, booze, swearing, and revision after revision after revision after revision. Sure, what you buy in the bookstore, penned by your favorite author, is going to be brilliant--they didn't just whack out a first draft and send it in. Their first drafts suck too, believe me.

Good god.
agilebrit: (Urge to bitchslap)
Yeah, I just saw this terrible "advice" on Yahoo Answers again. And kind of snapped. And ranted. I shall reproduce it here for posterity (because it's entirely possible it will be reported for "abuse"--which I will fight):

Write what you know, yes. And then research the rest. If all we ever wrote about was what we KNEW, I wouldn't have stuck an "end" at the bottom of my zombie story this morning. I looked up cerebrospinal fluid, and theories of zombie physiology, and mapped from Lampasas, TX, to Austin. I looked up a map of the University of Texas at Austin. I checked to see what sort of medical research they do there. ALL of it played into my plot--and I didn't know ANY of it when I started.

For other story-related things, I've looked up 9mm gunshot exit wounds. California firearms laws. Stockholm Syndrome. MRI's. Height and weight averages for men. Needle placement for an IV. Guns in general and particular. Defibrillators. Whether beheading kills a bee instantly. PTSD, flashbacks, and panic attacks. The list is endless.

But if I just stuck with "write what I know," I wouldn't get very far. Writers are not endless encyclopedias of knowledge AND THAT'S OKAY. It's just a matter of knowing where to find the information you need. And, yes, asking questions on Yahoo Answers is a perfectly legitimate way of doing it. However, I'd verify any information you got from here with an outside source, because some people here act like they know what they're talking about when they actually don't.

[redacted paragraph on basic research tools and what she could use to find what she's looking for]

"Write what you know" assumes that you can't find stuff out. How boring would that be?


If these kids were stuck with "writing what they knew," then all they'd write about is high school. If I stuck with "writing what I know" I'd never have written either of my novels--or (probably), any of my short stories. I can't think of a single one (not even the Bunny From Hell story) that I didn't have to do SOME research on. If all we wrote was "what we know," then where would fantasy and SF come from? How many SF writers have an actual background in hard science? Some of us, sure (hey, I've got a degree in Biology I never use), but not all. Probably not even most.

I am so sick and tired of seeing people get their chops busted for asking a perfectly legitimate research question on Yahoo Answers. Sanctimonious idiots spouting a slogan they don't even know the meaning of and sounding all authoritative and shit.

GAH.
agilebrit: (Urge to bitchslap)
Yeah, I just saw this terrible "advice" on Yahoo Answers again. And kind of snapped. And ranted. I shall reproduce it here for posterity (because it's entirely possible it will be reported for "abuse"--which I will fight):

Write what you know, yes. And then research the rest. If all we ever wrote about was what we KNEW, I wouldn't have stuck an "end" at the bottom of my zombie story this morning. I looked up cerebrospinal fluid, and theories of zombie physiology, and mapped from Lampasas, TX, to Austin. I looked up a map of the University of Texas at Austin. I checked to see what sort of medical research they do there. ALL of it played into my plot--and I didn't know ANY of it when I started.

For other story-related things, I've looked up 9mm gunshot exit wounds. California firearms laws. Stockholm Syndrome. MRI's. Height and weight averages for men. Needle placement for an IV. Guns in general and particular. Defibrillators. Whether beheading kills a bee instantly. PTSD, flashbacks, and panic attacks. The list is endless.

But if I just stuck with "write what I know," I wouldn't get very far. Writers are not endless encyclopedias of knowledge AND THAT'S OKAY. It's just a matter of knowing where to find the information you need. And, yes, asking questions on Yahoo Answers is a perfectly legitimate way of doing it. However, I'd verify any information you got from here with an outside source, because some people here act like they know what they're talking about when they actually don't.

[redacted paragraph on basic research tools and what she could use to find what she's looking for]

"Write what you know" assumes that you can't find stuff out. How boring would that be?


If these kids were stuck with "writing what they knew," then all they'd write about is high school. If I stuck with "writing what I know" I'd never have written either of my novels--or (probably), any of my short stories. I can't think of a single one (not even the Bunny From Hell story) that I didn't have to do SOME research on. If all we wrote was "what we know," then where would fantasy and SF come from? How many SF writers have an actual background in hard science? Some of us, sure (hey, I've got a degree in Biology I never use), but not all. Probably not even most.

I am so sick and tired of seeing people get their chops busted for asking a perfectly legitimate research question on Yahoo Answers. Sanctimonious idiots spouting a slogan they don't even know the meaning of and sounding all authoritative and shit.

GAH.
agilebrit: (Facepalm2)
So, I'm looking at my Plot Bunny Hutch, and this one kind of jumps out at me:

Bob sits down next to Bob2. "You okay?" he asks quietly.


And I seriously nearly used "Robert" and "Susan" as the names.

Someone just shoot me.

For those of you who are not as Downey-obsessed as I am, Susan is his wife's name. It's a father-daughter relationship in this thing that's half-formed in my head, but still.
agilebrit: (Facepalm2)
So, I'm looking at my Plot Bunny Hutch, and this one kind of jumps out at me:

Bob sits down next to Bob2. "You okay?" he asks quietly.


And I seriously nearly used "Robert" and "Susan" as the names.

Someone just shoot me.

For those of you who are not as Downey-obsessed as I am, Susan is his wife's name. It's a father-daughter relationship in this thing that's half-formed in my head, but still.
agilebrit: (Writer of Wrongs)
You know, I see stuff like this (caution: that link is not remotely SFW as it describes a sex act in graphic and somewhat horrifying detail--I mean, it's not even a well-written sex scene. Your sex scene should not make me either giggle or go WTF, especially not at the same time. Consider this a spew warning, because I see you all running off to read it. I'll wait), and it gives me hope. If a woman who writes the following descriptor:
The ex-world champion boxer-turned-music mogul

can get an agent and a four-book deal, that gives me hope that I can too. Admittedly, it's not my genre and we perhaps have higher standards than, well, that, but still.

I mean, seriously, if I wrote a descriptor like that, my Hubby, my Writing Buddy, and all of You would hit me over the head with a style manual and a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing." Her dashes aren't even in the right place. I don't think. *squints* It's...hard to tell, actually. Regardless, that is an awkward, awkward construction.

I can see it now:
Ben, a werewolf ex-Army Ranger turned computer hacker and otherwise jack-of-all-trades for his PI boss, kissed his waitress/artist/aspiring-actress wife Janni goodbye as he headed out the door for another surveillance job.

*THWAP*

Yes, I get that Dan Brown gets away with this. That's because he's Dan Brown and there's no accounting for taste.

BAD WRITER. NO BOOZE.
agilebrit: (Writer of Wrongs)
You know, I see stuff like this (caution: that link is not remotely SFW as it describes a sex act in graphic and somewhat horrifying detail--I mean, it's not even a well-written sex scene. Your sex scene should not make me either giggle or go WTF, especially not at the same time. Consider this a spew warning, because I see you all running off to read it. I'll wait), and it gives me hope. If a woman who writes the following descriptor:
The ex-world champion boxer-turned-music mogul

can get an agent and a four-book deal, that gives me hope that I can too. Admittedly, it's not my genre and we perhaps have higher standards than, well, that, but still.

I mean, seriously, if I wrote a descriptor like that, my Hubby, my Writing Buddy, and all of You would hit me over the head with a style manual and a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing." Her dashes aren't even in the right place. I don't think. *squints* It's...hard to tell, actually. Regardless, that is an awkward, awkward construction.

I can see it now:
Ben, a werewolf ex-Army Ranger turned computer hacker and otherwise jack-of-all-trades for his PI boss, kissed his waitress/artist/aspiring-actress wife Janni goodbye as he headed out the door for another surveillance job.

*THWAP*

Yes, I get that Dan Brown gets away with this. That's because he's Dan Brown and there's no accounting for taste.

BAD WRITER. NO BOOZE.

Also...

Dec. 1st, 2009 09:18 pm
agilebrit: (not amused)
Is it just me, or does it annoy anyone else when a character racks the slide back on an automatic weapon when, by rights, they should already have one in the chamber? Right after a re-load, okay, yes, absolutely, but any other time?

I'm just sayin'.

Not that Ben is armed and dangerous right now or anything. My brain goes to strange places when Ben is stressed.

Also...

Dec. 1st, 2009 09:18 pm
agilebrit: (not amused)
Is it just me, or does it annoy anyone else when a character racks the slide back on an automatic weapon when, by rights, they should already have one in the chamber? Right after a re-load, okay, yes, absolutely, but any other time?

I'm just sayin'.

Not that Ben is armed and dangerous right now or anything. My brain goes to strange places when Ben is stressed.

Well.

Nov. 10th, 2009 12:50 pm
agilebrit: (Writer of Wrongs)
I seem to be getting a ... better class of rejection, these days? I've got this one story making the rounds that's actually passed slush three times and I've gotten personal notes from Senior Editors at two major major publications for it, and it's passed slush at another (brand new) pro market (which I should hear back from in the next ten days or so).

What's weird is that this is one of my earlier Things. So, it's not like my skill level has changed or anything. Possibly having "my work has appeared in Cosmos" is making a difference? Well. Whatever the reason, it gives me hope, anyway. I feel like I'm right on the cusp of Something Big. Of course, I've felt that way for a good long time now, so... yeah. My giant ego is giant. But I'm a writer, so I guess that comes with the territory.

I really need to start working on the Ghost Ship story again. That Writers of the Future deadline is going to sneak up on me and pounce before I know it...

Well.

Nov. 10th, 2009 12:50 pm
agilebrit: (Writer of Wrongs)
I seem to be getting a ... better class of rejection, these days? I've got this one story making the rounds that's actually passed slush three times and I've gotten personal notes from Senior Editors at two major major publications for it, and it's passed slush at another (brand new) pro market (which I should hear back from in the next ten days or so).

What's weird is that this is one of my earlier Things. So, it's not like my skill level has changed or anything. Possibly having "my work has appeared in Cosmos" is making a difference? Well. Whatever the reason, it gives me hope, anyway. I feel like I'm right on the cusp of Something Big. Of course, I've felt that way for a good long time now, so... yeah. My giant ego is giant. But I'm a writer, so I guess that comes with the territory.

I really need to start working on the Ghost Ship story again. That Writers of the Future deadline is going to sneak up on me and pounce before I know it...
agilebrit: (Writer of Wrongs)
Because I like navel-gazing as much as the next person, here, have this:

Pick a paragraph (or any passage less than 500 words) from anything I've written, and comment to this post with that selection [Note: Please include the title/fandom & a link wouldn't be bad if it's something older]. I will then give you a DVD commentary on that snippet: what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I wrote it in the first place, what's going on in the character's heads, why I chose certain words, what this moment means in the context of the rest of the fic, lots of awful puns, and anything else that you'd expect to find on a DVD commentary track.

Where you can find my stuff:
Snippets!
Fanfic!
Original fiction!

Hit me, flist. It would fill me with unseemly glee if someone wanted something from here.

Maybe I should do a commentary on that one anyway, because I love it so much...

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