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Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

So much for the last year. It’s on the way out, along with a whole decade. Time to look ahead and choose how to go forward. I have several plans, now. Hopefully some of them will actually pan out. Note, they are plans, not goals. This is going to be a process, but starting it is the first important thing. Then, of course, staying with it.

First: I believe part of the problem is that I haven’t been doing enough to refill my creative well. I’ve let myself fall into a rut. I even keep re-reading the same books a good portion of the time–the books I know won’t let me down. Well, I’m not going to stop re-reading my old friends from time to time, but I am going to make more effort to read new things, too–new authors, new stories from authors I love, second chances, perhaps, for some authors who I felt let me down. But that’s not enough. I need to move out of my comfort zone more. I’m going to make an effort to go to new places, too. Maybe even meet new people (which, as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, is not the easiest thing for me to do). Also, most likely, a new fitness routine. I need to make some changes there, too. Process. Baby steps.

Second: Creativity thrives on the new. New experiences, yes. (See above.) But also new learning. I’ve lined up several lecture series on The Great Courses Plus. The first up align quite nicely with that secret history/alternate history idea I’ve been playing around with for years. (Right now, I’m leaning toward an alternate history, which would allow me to keep names and places, but not worry too much about the details of daily life, etc. If dragons have been influencing humanity for centuries . . . well, a lot of things might well be different and I don’t have to bog myself down with research into the details. The broad courses of history and pivotal events–and people–could still stay the same . . . more or less.) There’s also a lecture series on writing that I started but haven’t finished. And . . . well, there are a lot of things available there. Who knows what will spark an idea? Maybe for another story altogether.

Third: Breaking through writer’s block. I’ve bought and started reading one e-book on the subject. Not everything in it will work for me, of course. You can’t expect that. Every writer’s process is different. But picking up some ideas is a good start. There’s another book by a different author I may try after this one.

Fourth: Maybe try joining another writer’s group. Not that I’m going to leave any of the ones I’m in, but it could be something to try. Still thinking about this one.

Fifth:  Clean my desk.

Messy Desk

Right now, I don’t blame the muse for refusing to visit. Step one, taking down the office Christmas tree,

WireTree2019

is complete. Now I have some room to sort things into better order.

Sixth: Get back to a regular writing routine. Maybe not the same one as before, but something I can maintain–something that meshes with breaking out of my rut. This is only sixth because the first requirement is a story I’m excited to tell (right now, that secret history) that is ready to be told. Secret history is not quite ripe yet, though it’s getting close, I think.

That should do for getting started, anyway. Hopefully.

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Well, it’s that time of year again, to look back at the goals I set at the beginning of the year and assess how I did. I know the answer already. I didn’t accomplish any of my goals. Not one. In fact, I’ve done very little writing of any kind this year. Not much to report, but it’s certainly worth reflecting on why–and what I might do about fixing that situation.

So, here they are:

First Goal: Complete the rewrite of MAGE STORM and publish it.

Mage Storm

Yeah, this is the one that seems to have derailed the whole year. My enthusiasm for this project just faded to nothing. There may be a couple of reasons for this. First, I’d already written at least two versions of this story. Now, that’s not fatal. I’d written two versions of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE before the final one, too.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

But when I did that, I truly started over and rewrote the story–not without any reference to the earlier versions, but a true rewrite. I tried to take a short cut with MAGE STORM and just revise the existing portions and add new material. And, yeah, revisions are not the part of the writing process which really generate a lot of enthusiasm. When I tackle this one again, it’s going to have to be a ground-up rewrite, I think.

Second Goal: Begin work on the second book, tentatively titled ROGUE MAGE. (But see above backup goal.)

Yes, well, having failed to get very far with the first book, it’s not a big surprise that I didn’t accomplish this either. Although, I did, at one desperate point, try to start this one in a vain attempt to generate that lost enthusiasm.

Third Goal: Housekeeping-type things:

  • Do some work on this website and on my Facebook Author Page to make them more appealing and more professional.
  • Establish some kind of regular promotions.

Now, this one I might have done. But, I didn’t.

Fourth Goal: Continue learning and improving:

  • Continue reading and learning about other aspects of the craft, chiefly marketing/promotion and better launch strategies for new books.

Well, alone on this list, this one might not be a total washout. I have done some reading about these and other aspects of the craft. And thinking. Also, there are other things to learn outside the craft that could spark ideas–and I have done a little of that, too.

And, finally, the back-burner list. Things I am not, at this moment, ready to write, but need that final inspiration or two that pulls them out of the pile and makes them irresistible.

One or more sequels to DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

No, but I did try to shoe-horn my idea for a Cinderella retelling into this world. That didn’t work, either.

  • Fairy tale retellings, including MEADOWSWEET.

MEADOWSWEET, which was meant to be a retelling of “Little Furball” is probably permanently off the table. The version of “Little Furball” I grew up with was a considerably sanitized one. Doing more research into that fairy tale pretty well killed any interest I had in it. And ruined one of the favorite stories of my childhood. Oh, well.

  • My much-neglected weird Oz story.

Nothing started. Nothing really planned in the short term. Maybe I’ll get in some more reading of the original Oz stories–which are not much like the Judy Garland movie–not even the first story. Baum had a truly . . . unique . . . imagination.

Nope.

The final book in the CHIMERIA series.ChimeriaBox

Again, nope.

  • And that Arthurian-legend, secret-history idea I’ve been playing with off and on.

Now, here’s one, finally, that has some possibilities. I said there were other things to learn besides craft. A couple of courses on The Great Course Plus and a quick survey of some English history have given me some ideas in this regard. I may choose to do it as a second-world fantasy rather than be bound by trying to stay true to all of the historical details–not just of events, but the ways people lived, etc. Over at least four centuries–possible more, depending on where I choose to start–that could be just another way to not writewhich is not what I’m looking for. Either way, I still have some thought to put into world building. The magic system would probably be minimal in this one, but I do need something important enough for two groups to fight over and continue to fight over for generations. What so desperately needs to be defended? Why do the opposition want it so badly? Until I have that worked out, this will still be in the planning stages. But at least I have started thinking about it.

  • I’m sure others will raise their heads as I go along. In my experience, there’s nothing like writing one idea to cause others to spring up along my path like bunny rabbits.

Well, yes. Starting to write again would probably help with this, wouldn’t it?

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It occurred to me that one way to break out of a rut is to learn something new. So, I’ve signed up for the Great Courses Plus–a subscription streaming service of the Great Courses.

I’ve started with “The Celtic World”. Who knows what little factoid will spark a new idea and the creative fire to go with it. The worst that can happen is that I’ll learn something. And, knowing how these things work, that something–or a version of it–might turn up in a future story.

Win Win.

That, and discovering that Sadie loves to play in the hose are enough to make today a good day.

Wet Sadie

Sadie before getting towel dried. Happy and very, very wet.

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In Other News

Because progress reports about how much or how little I’ve written on MAGE STORM are boring,

Mage Storm

maybe I should post about something else.

First choice would be what I’m learning. I bought a number of books about the business–especially the marketing–side of this writing business. Unfortunately, so far I haven’t had any epiphanies. Well, except that everyone seems to agree that I need to just bite the bullet and start a mailing list. Something I’ve been resisting. Maybe I’ll give it another go. Maybe. I can be a pretty good procrastinator when I want to. Not in the same class as my Dad,

Dad in Uniform

My father.

but . . . the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

What else is going on?

Well, since I lost both my dogs. Aliza in May 2016 and Micah just this last August,

Micah and Aliza

I’ve been wanting to get another dog. I’ve looked a couple of places, but I what I really want is another Cardigan Welsh Corgi. I’d gotten on a waiting list for a litter that was planned for this coming summer, but now it looks like that won’t happen. So, I’m going to get more serious and really start looking. Talking to Cardi breeders, for a start.

That could get interesting. Both Aliza and Micah came to me as adults while I was taking care of my mother,

Mom, Young

and needed dogs of known temperament and some level of maturity.  Aliza was fifteen months old, a failed show prospect but a champion companion, when I got her. Micah was three and a half years old, a retired breed champion, when he came to me. Both came from their breeders. But . .  . I haven’t had a puppy since I was in the sixth grade. It’d be a whole new experience. I’m going to look into Cardigan rescue, too. But that’s probably a long shot. Not too many Cardis end up in rescue.

So . . . that’s most of what else is occupying my time right now–aside from the day job, of course.

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I had my plans all made. After the next book in line would be MAGE STORM, kicking off a new series.

Mage Storm

Then about a week ago, a new, bright, shiny story idea bounced across my path. It’s not really a new story, exactly. The idea has been around for a while, but it wasn’t ready. There were pieces missing. Especially the world building. And then, one night, there they were, all shiny and new.

The conventional wisdom at this point, is to right down all that inspiration, so I won’t forget. (That’s a lesson most writers have to learn the hard way–including me. No matter how much you think you’ll remember because it’s so wonderful–you won’t. Write it down.) And then go ahead with the original plan.

That’s . . . sometimes easier said than done.  I’ve written down the inspiration, but I still really, really want to write MEADOWSWEET, too. (Just like stray puppies and kittens, it’s a really bad sign when the get named.) My heart may already have gone over that fence.

MEADOWSWEET would be a fairytale retelling–a subgenre I’ve never done before. In another post I may go into which fairytale and why I chose that title instead of one more closely tied to the original fairytale.

So, what’s likely to happen next is me trying to write two stories at once. I’ve been that crazy before and it’s worked out. (Though I do have to be really careful to keep the characters and character names in the right stories.) It can work out. When one story hits a place that needs more thought or inspiration to break through, I can just switch to the other for a while. Given the trouble MAGE STORM was giving me a month or so ago, that might actually be a good thing.

Meantime, while I try to force myself to do that research on launch strategies, I’ve started the polishing edit on BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM.

StormCover2

Maybe that’ll give me a little more distance from that bright, shiny story temptation.

 

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Changes

The second round of final revisions to BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM have gone well, so far.

StormCover2

Just two more.

The first of those I thought was going to be more extensive. But, on reflection, I’m thinking maybe not. I don’t know that that particular meeting needs more emotion. Not that it can’t be refined a little, but I don’t know that it should be deeper. Although these two characters are half-brothers, they’ve never met before, so I don’t think their emotions need to run really deep–yet. I’m going to give that section another read through and then decide.

The second is a place where another character (not a POV character) really should have an emotional reaction to something and currently doesn’t. But since he doesn’t have the POV, it will only the obvious, external reaction. Well, and the effect that has on the POV character.

So, it’s looking really good to complete these revisions soon. Then I think I’ll let it rest just a little before I start the final polishing edit. I think I’ll spend the time doing some research into launch strategies and see if I can’t give this one off to a better start than the last one. There’s always something new that can be learned and a chance to do things a little better with each book.

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I will be working on figuring out keywords for some time, I’m increasingly sure. In my last post, I mentioned making a couple of changes to my keywords. It’s still really to early to tell whether that had any impact–though my sales have gone up this week. There’s some reason to think it had nothing to do with the keywords. Still, at least it’s a change for the better.

The change I made was to pick out my two lamest keywords for each book–and lame is the only word I can think of to describe some of them–and replace them with NobleBright or Noble Bright (to cover both possible spellings).

Why’d I pick that? What is this NobleBright?

Well, NobleBright, like its opposite GrimDark comes originally from the world of gaming, from which it cross-pollinated over to books.

In GrimDark fantasy, the setting may be more . . . grim. More importantly, the characters are mostly out for their own self-interest–material or personal gain or revenge. More like the characters from some Sword and Sorcery than like classic epic fantasy. G. R. R. Martin’s SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series (more popularly known as GAME OF THRONES) is a pretty good example. Quite a lot of recently published–especially traditionally published–fantasy partakes of at least some of this.

NobleBright fantasy may–or may not–have a setting that is less grim (some have coined the term NobleDark for that), but the main attribute is that at least one of the principal characters acts out of noble motivations.

There’s an argument to be made that GrimDark is more realistic and more accurately portrays what a medievalesque world would have been like. I won’t dispute this. I will say that if I want reality, there’s 24/7 news on cable TV.

I think there’s a much better argument–perhaps especially in our current world–for stories about characters who behave more nobly. For characters who just maybe make us aspire to be better and to make the world better.

In any case, that’s the kind of story I write. So, maybe they’ll find a better and bigger audience with those keywords. I can hope.

 

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