20170407_073450

Pub Crawl launches today!

Pub Crawl is the newer, better version of Let The Words Flow, and it’s launching today!

Here’s the details:

  • It’s Pub[lishing] Crawl, or Pub Crawl for short.
  • The site was custom built by Susan Dennard and one of our exciting new members!
  • As stated above, we have exciting new members! Lots of them in fact! Supremely awesome, accomplished, kickass new members! We’ll be announcing a new one almost every day for the next two weeks!
  • Then, we’ll be re-introducing our old members with some fun interview questions. Not everyone is choosing to join us at Pub Crawl though :-(
  • The LTWF site will stay up, but we won’t be updating it anymore.
  • We will also have GIVEAWAYS EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR THE REST OF THE MONTH!!!! :D

The goal for Pub Crawl is to bring you guys an even more amazing, professional blog focused on including you in and teaching you about the publishing and writing community. We’ve added not only more writers, but industry professionals who’ll be able to shed some light on what goes on behind-the-scenes in the industry. It’s the same friendly, open spirit of LTWF, just with a new domain and colors :-)

We’ve been planning this for MONTHS and are so incredibly excited to finally get to share it with you! Please come and check it out!

<3, Savannah

20170407_073450

Writer’s Retreat Recap!

As I mentioned previously, I spent last week with Sarah Maas, Susan Dennard, Kat Zhang, and Biljana Likic from Let The Words Flow!

The trip was amazing. We stayed at this awesome beach house right on the coast, went to Harry Potter World in Orlando, and even met up with a fan of the blog for lunch/book shopping! You can see all the pictures from the trip here on my Facebook.

The most amazing part was how we managed to spend 6 days together and not run out of stuff to talk about as it relates to writing. From the projects we’re working on to anecdotes about querying and publishing, I learned sooo much and felt so grateful to be privy to this wisdom.

However, the trip was fraught with some weird bad luck. First Biljana’s plane got delayed and she almost had to spend the night in Atlanta (having done this before, let me say it’s airport hell on earth), then a ride broke down at HP world, Billy got stung by a jellyfish, and I realized I’d left my laptop and reading material at Susan’s house (not to mention the van broke down as we were trying to get home).

Cue gasp of horror. I’ve never been on vacation without something to read, or at least something to write on. Thankfully, after lunch with our fan, Sydney, we went to a Barnes & Noble and I was able to buy a notebook, which I quickly filled with 2,000 words of the zombie novel.

A snapshot of how crazily I filled this notebook. A page was about 250 words… that’s a lot of pages!

I know I said I had to put it aside, but I’m in this weird limbo right now where I can’t work on anything else so I might as well write on the zombie book since I know I want to sell it eventually.

Just in case anyone was wondering… Harry Potter world was awesome! They have a village set up just like Hogsmeade. We all got butterbeer (it was disgusting), and waited in line for 2 hours just to ride the Hogwarts Adventure ride. It was worth it, though I wouldn’t do it again. We were literally dripping with sweat and in the longest line I have ever seen in my life.

Later we discovered we are all screamers as we went on a log ride that left us absolutely soaked, then on a dragon roller coaster that left us all with headaches and sore voices. But that didn’t stop Billy, Susan, and I from riding the Hulk, where we screamed so loud Sarah and Kat on the ground knew which coaster was ours.

Here’s the girls with our fan (I was taking the picture). From left to right: Sarah Maas, Susan Dennard, Biljana Likic, Sydney, Kat Zhang.

Here’s all of us taking a picture with Mandy Hubbard’s newest release, RIPPLE!

The oddest thing about the vacation was how in-withdrawal we all felt after leaving. You mean I’m not going to be able to see my writer friends as soon as I wake up tomorrow? Sad. :(

But on the other hand, I really missed Chris and wanted to come home and be with him and get back on a regular writing schedule again (with my beloved laptop).

Also, I have a really funny Teaser Tuesday to share with you all, so tune in next week to read the first fantasy story I ever wrote!

20170407_073450

Reactions to Jealousy Article

Today I posted an article about Jealousy and Fictionpress over at Let The Words Flow, and it’s gotten some interesting reactions.

Firstly, I didn’t think it was that great of an article. When I showed it to sjmaas a few weeks ago when I wrote it, she told me it was the best I had ever written, and that puzzled me.

Surely Sudden Novel Death Syndrome or Failing Better were better written, definitely longer, and more relevant for the daily life of a writer.

But today I’ve gotten tons of long comments detailing readers’ own experiences with Jealousy. And it’s made me think; I’ve been focusing on the quality of the article, its insight, and its brevity, but there was something I was overlooking: Honesty.

My article is very honest. It shows readers the inside emotions of some former FictionPress giants and how we all, large readership or not, felt the same sting of jealousy. And while we don’t pay it much attention in the mainstream, jealousy is a huge factor of our internal lives, because it blends with another emotion a reader was insightful enough to point out: inadequacy.

I feel inadequate. I bet you feel inadequate, too. I have an agent, but no published book. At any moment I’m in danger of getting all rejections for the book I have out on submissions, and it will never be published, and my agent won’t like the other book I pitched to her, and I’m back at square 1. Even if I get published, at any moment the news could come in that no one is buying or reading my books, or reviewers hate them, and I’ll never make comission and no publisher will ever want to work with me again.

Even the Movers and Shakers of the writing world: William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Nora Roberts, etc. must all feel inadequate. I’m sure that some or all of them have felt jealous of another Mover and Shaker.

Jealousy and inadequacy is a universal, and constant issue. I try to be zen about it and accept that I can do things that no one else can, even while others can do things that I’ll never be able to, but I admit it’s hard. Sometimes I feel like I’m covering my ears, shutting my eyes, and screaming my own written words to myself, just to block everyone else out so I can feel good about what I’ve written.

And sometimes there are good days, when I’m the best writer in the world. And then there are bad days when I suck and I’ll never be published and none of my ideas are commercial enough to sell.

In conclusion, I’m glad that those who read the article felt a sense of community and kinship with other writers, some of whom they might have been jealous of in the past. I guess I need to never overlook the honesty and the human element.

20170407_073450

The Importance of Setting

As seen over at Let the Words Flow:

Think of your favorite book. Think of the characters; what do you love about them? What do you see them doing?

More importantly, where are they?

Today I’d like to talk about the importance of Setting, and how it impacts both your writing life and your future readers.

Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about Harry Potter. I assume most of you out there are fans. What do you think has led to the prominence of Harry Potter fan fiction on Fanfiction.net? Is it the characters? Is it the widespread popularity? I propose to you that what makes Harry Potter so popular is its setting.

If you’ve read one of the Harry Potter books, then you know what Hogwarts looks like. In your mind you know exactly where the Gryffindor common room is, what the doors to the dining hall look like, which direction Dumbledore’s office is facing, etc. You might not be able to draw a functional map of it, and your ideas of where everything is might not match J.K. Rowling’s ideas at all, but the point is that you have a very vivid mental picture of Harry Potter’s primary setting, and in your imaginings during History class or a work meeting you could follow all the characters up and down stairs, across courtyards, through fields, etc., making up new stories and events for them.

The Setting is the playground of the book. If you have a clear idea of your setting, and fully understand the different elements in it, then you could take your book in any direction you wanted. You might go off in several direction before you actually decide on one, all because it’s so easy to think up new scenarios for your characters.

In the Antebellum series, I have very clear, very vivid ideas about the homes and cities of my characters. It’s not hard at all to go there in my mind and hang out with my characters, watching them go about their daily lives. I could lead them into any situation I wanted, and I know exactly where they would stand and what objects would be around them. It’s like a computer game, but for your mind.

I feel very confidently that you can move about the rooms of your favorite books with the same amount of ease. I am also sure that you, like me, run into serious problems when you can’t envision exactly where your characters are.

The realization of the importance of setting came to me very recently as I was working on what I hope will become my newest novel. It involves time travel, and primarily five settings: two houses, an apartment, and two towns. My problem is that I have no idea what any of these places look like. It’s not a matter of research, it’s a matter of orienting myself to their world. What direction do these houses face? When you come through the front door, are you greeted with a staircase, a kitchen, or a reception area? What floor is the apartment on? Is it near a library, a supermarket, or the ghetto, or all three?

Until I figure out the world through my characters’ eyes, I cannot connect with them. I feel lost when I write them; it’s the same feeling as when you take your already-well-known characters and move them into a new setting. You’ll notice it with books sometimes; for just a scene the author will move their characters into a setting completely different than those we visit in the rest of the novel. If the author doesn’t have a clear idea of what that setting looks like, it comes across in their writing, and one of my senses goes dark. I can’t see what the characters are doing anymore. I can hear them, yes, and feel what they’re touching, but my sight is gone until they return to areas I’m more familiar with.

Even though I signed up for NaNoWriMo last month, as soon as I realized my setting predicament I stopped working on the story. I refuse to go back to my novel until I know exactly how to move about the rooms and worlds of my characters. Otherwise I’ll just be stuck in the same spot, flailing around in the dark, offering description and movement but no insight. I can’t make my plot develop if I don’t know what direction my characters are heading next.

Realizing the importance of setting explained for me why some earlier attempts at novels never went anywhere; I had one room, or one piece of scenery, cast out into the void like an island.

How do you pick a setting? Some stories you work on might not come with their settings magically imprinted into your head. Sometimes you might have to work at it, and in that case, I find it helpful to have something to base your setting off of. I recommend the following sources for finding settings:

Continue reading this article at Let The Words Flow

20170407_073450

Sudden Novel Death Syndrome

Hey new friends,

My article entitled ‘Sudden Novel Death Syndrome’ is up at Let The Words Flow.

Excerpt:

I have them and you have them: failed projects. No matter how exciting the initial burst of inspiration, no matter how striking and significant the initial chapters, something causes the story to descend into a frustrating nothing, subsequent chapters diluting themselves into a boring parody of that first, promising beginning. As a writer, your excitement turns to hesitation, then panic, then disgust, and your project gets shelved and locked into the back files of your computer, never to be developed further (except for those occasional, guilty tweakings).

Why does this happen? What, if anything, can be done to prevent it? I’ve compiled a list of reasons—and solutions—to this stagnation, and I hope it’s a help to you:

1. The first rule of writing is: Don’t talk about your novel.

2. The second rule of writing is: Do NOT. TALK. ABOUT. YOUR. NOVEL.

Discussing ideas with your friend or audience seems to be a sure-fire way to kill a project from the very beginning. There’s just something about debating possible plot options that effectively stops production in its tracks. My theory is that it turns your project into an attempt to please everyone at once. Others suggest it distracts you from the delicate process of actually working on the project; you become the type of writer who is always talking about his/her book without ever actually writing it.

This phenomenon has been noticed by other writers as well. Consider the following quotes:

Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. ~A. Bronson Alcott

I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer

Solution: Don’t talk about your project! Don’t you dare let anyone encroach upon the amazing process that belongs only to you and your writing. Your friends can’t write it for you, and they can’t be there in your head when you’re working out all the details, so why would you involve them at all? Let them read the finished product, not influence a work in progress. Rule of thumb: Consider it bad luck to discuss the details of a project until it is finished. Bring out your novel or story like it is Athena emerging from your head: fully-formed and beautiful.

One last quote to pound the point home:

Writing is a product of silence. ~Carrie Latet

Read about three more problems and their solutions at Let The Words Flow!

20170407_073450

On Inspiration and Trusting your Instinct (or, Writing as a Mental Disorder)

EDIT: ANTEBELLUM is now known as NAMELESS

As seen on the Let The Words Flow blog:

If you’re a writer, and I mean a Writer, then you are probably somewhat insane. Consider the following quotes for context:

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O’Brien

First, find out what your character wants. Then, just follow him. ~Ray Bradbury.

Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum. ~Graycie Harmon

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow

When I first began writing Antebellum (formerly known as Woman’s World), all I had was a premise: What would the world be like if women had been the dominant gender throughout the ages, not men? I wondered if there would be peace or war, slavery or freedom, what the government would look like, who would raise the children, would children even be important, and what would men’s roles be? I wanted to examine this world, our world, in a different light. Ultimately I decided men would be kept as slaves: menial workers and companions, both holding the nation and families together as caretakers and the working class, leaving women to pursue knowledge, science, and art.

I began with a female character about to take her first slave. I didn’t know her name, or his name, or anything about their society at all. But as the sentences began to pile on top of each other, it became clear that my characters knew everything I didn’t. I followed them as a tourist, stalking them through my keyboard, learning about their customs and responsibilities, their emotions and struggles. They wanted things, and would fight for what they wanted. I was enthralled.

I also thought I was a little crazy. In school I was taught that the writing process had definite steps; first there was a brainstorming session, then a rough draft, then three re-edits until you had a final copy. In elementary school, this was the way writing was done, and there was no room for negotiation. In fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and loved the creativity of just going at it on paper, but hated this drafting/editing process and knew I would never be able to take being a writer if I had to do that nonsense all the time.

So, when I began writing Antebellum at the age of 14, I didn’t know anything about real writers or real writing, but I had found this magic world inside myself, this trance-like interaction between my imagination and my more logical self, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Other aspiring writers I met in school didn’t have this (they also lacked my natural instinct for grammar and plots not based on their favorite anime), and so I felt very alone, a little frustrated, and misunderstood. My teachers hadn’t any inkling what I was talking about, either.

Then, in 9th grade I picked up a book from my English teacher’s personal library: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. It was a quick, strange read, but at the end I found total gold: an interview with the author. That three-page or so interview completely changed my writing life. Bradbury revealed that he had the same, strange, magical process of writing. He likened his writing process to following his characters around with a notepad, writing down what they do.

I had found my people. There were others like me. I wasn’t strange or half-crazy, no, I was just a REAL writer! I was thrilled. I began calling myself a writer from that day on. It was who and what I was, and what I would always be, published or not.

Writing after that became far more enjoyable. I learned to listen to my subconscious pulling and give my creative side free range to make up anything it wanted to. Our brains are so smart once we stop analyzing what and how we’re actually thinking. My subconscious had whole plots worked out I wasn’t even aware of. These plans would emerge unexpectedly and surprise me.

For example (those who read the Antebellum series when it was available on Fictionpress will remember this), one day I was sitting at my desk, typing along on my second book, Apostasy, when suddenly one of my characters blurted out to another that she was pregnant.

I stopped, took my hands off the keyboard, and looked at the screen more closely. Had I really written that? That wasn’t in my conscious plan. I had no intention of making this character pregnant. Her pregnancy had nothing to do with the plot I was developing; in fact, it threatened to ruin what long-term plans I did have.

However, while my conscious self didn’t have a plan, my subconscious self certainly did. Later on in the third book this unexpected pregnancy twist surfaced again and revealed its surprising plan, throwing in a most-excellent plot-twist towards the end that intrigued and delighted readers.

It was a leap of faith to accept that unexpected turn of events, and I’m glad I did. That experience taught me a lot about the subconscious writing process and about the power of our minds. It was also useful for helping me trust myself in a similar situation years later, as I was working on my fifth book, Go Look There.

I had just graduated from high school, and my family unexpectedly moved to north Alabama. For a graduation present, my father bought me a laptop (which I type this article on now, two years later). We were stuck in corporate housing for what ended up being two months, and I had nothing to do except play on my laptop (without even the internet; too cruel!) and write. I had brought some of my current writing projects with me on CD, as my desktop was moved along with the rest of our stuff, and began toying with some short stories I had written. There was one in particular I was working on which featured a girl with a mental retardation that made her smell attractive to butterflies. At her 8th grade graduation outside, butterflies came and swarmed her, and the crowd’s reaction to both this girl and this miraculous event served as a pointed social critique.

This all sounded nice in theory, and the story had hints of what I ultimately wanted the reader to feel (magic, spookiness, etc.), but it was missing something. It didn’t have what I call ‘saturation,’ where every sentence is rich with meaning and/or description, and as soon as you read the first few lines of the story you feel as if you are living it.

I tried several variations of the story, but it still felt flat and unoriginal, so I decided (going with that subconscious instinct), to change the perspective from third person to first person. For the eyes and ears of the story I chose the school janitor, who had a special relationship with the children and the school that parents attending could not have. His name was Ephram Carson. A novel was born.

(You can read this chapter on my website here)

Ephram is the most strongly-defined character I’ve ever written (you can see his character analysis on my website, too), and he had stories to tell, only the first of which was this strange, haunting butterfly episode. In fact, it was this experience, along with another tragedy involving a child and butterflies, that created a stigma in the town that functioned as a sort of curse. Ephram wrote letters to the school psychiatrist, Angelica, recounting the strange, spooky, and often sad stories of the children of the town. I got to incorporate more of my short stories into the novel and add new ones, and the project turned itself into my favorite novel so far, Go Look There (never before shared on Fictionpress, unfortunately).

If I hadn’t have trusted my instincts and changed the perspective of the story, even though it meant a complete rewrite and working with an unfamiliar character (at first), I would never have arrived at the novel my subconscious had in store for me.

Now, whenever I can I try to enlighten other young writers to the subconscious effect, and reassure them they aren’t crazy; they’re just legitimate!

In writing, your mind is your most useful tool. Forget your computer, forget your keyboard, forget your typewriter or your notepad and pens. If you had nothing else in the world, not even your voice or hands, you could still make up stories. Your work doesn’t come from your tools, but your brain. Remember that.

Now get out there and make some magic.

PS: I’m guest-blogging tomorrow at the blog of Jess Granger, whose first book, Beyond the Rain, came out in August of this year (click the link for sexy/beautiful cover!)

-Savannah J. Foley