Friday, April 28, 2017

The Gentle Parenting Philosophy that Will Help You Enjoy Writing Again

I'm a huge fan of the gentle parenting philosophy. One of the GP pages I follow on Facebook had a post discussing summer guidelines for kids. You've probably seen these. They look something like this:

One of the comments on the photo created an aha! moment for me. Someone pointed out that this strategy only serves to makes screentime the holy grail while it makes everything else into a chore that stands between them and the prize. Things like creativity are inspired and should never be treated like a chore.

The gentle parenting philosophy points out that intrinsic motivation is always better than extrinsic motivation. So instead of, "I'm doing something creative so I can watch TV," you get, "I'm doing something creative because I love it."

Which one do you think is going to have better results?

I realized this applies not just to parenting, but to my writing life too.

I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo right now, taking a much more relaxed approach than I have in the past during November NaNoWriMo. My goal for Camp NaNoWriMo was an easy 500 words a day with no pressure to really even "finish." I'm having so much fun writing! I'm falling "behind," but I've written more this month than I have in probably the whole past year. (It's hard with a baby, okay?)

My experience this month is a stark contrast to my November NaNoWriMo experiences. The pressure became too much and I dreaded writing some days. I may have finished the race, but on the other side of the finish line, I felt bitter toward my manuscript. And the worst part? Every time I've done November NaNoWriMo, I stopped writing at all for months afterward because I felt so burnt out.

I write better and more often when I'm intrinsically motivated by my love for writing and my love for my story. As soon as I add extrinsic motivation, the passion dies and my writing life takes a critical hit.

Keep your eye on the real prize. The pure magic that happens when you open your imagination and write. That's it. Don't be motivated by a deadline or your dream of publication. You'll make the deadline. You'll get published. But you'll accomplish those things because you love to write.

Jessie Mullins is a YA writer and mommy blogger. She's been in love with her now husband since before high school, and they have an adorable one-year-old who loves books. You can find more bookish things on her writer Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

GUESTOPIA: Indie Author Gareth Young

Gareth Young

It's GUESTOPIA time again! And today, I'm thrilled to welcome the larger than life, awesomely cool author Gareth Young to the stage. Let's meet him first, and if you have any further questions after the interview, feel free to leave a comment.

Gareth S. Young was born and raised in Scotland, but has now lived for more than 18 years in the American Midwest. This has played havoc with his accent. In 2010, he published his first full length story, a mystery/suspense novel called Monsters. 
In 2016, his newest novel, The Wolves of Dynamo was published. Part one of an audacious YA urban fantasy series. He is currently working on The Daedalus Syndrome, the second book in the Dynamo City series. 

Is this your first published book?

This is my second book, but first aimed at a YA audience.

What’s it called?

The Wolves of Dynamo

Which genre?

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal

Which age group?

Teenagers and older

Is it a series or standalone?

Part of an ongoing series.

Are you an agented author?


Which publisher snapped up your book?

I am self-published

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

Very involved. Hired an editor and cover artist, and worked closely with both.

Do you have another job?

Yes. I work as a Train Dispatcher…like an air traffic controller for trains.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Haven’t submitted anything to a publisher yet.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

This story is based on ideas spawned from a roleplaying game that myself and my two friends, Alan Bain and Andrew Davidson, came up with more than twenty-five years ago.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

I’m a pantser, so I like to dive in quickly. I planned a rough outline and then kicked off from the there.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

It flowed easily.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

My first draft was rough and it took another two before I let my friends Alan and Andrew read it.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I hired a good friend of mine to edit the book. Her advice and encouragement helped a lot.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Three or four drafts before I let people see it.

How many drafts until it was published?

Six drafts to get everything polished up the way I wanted it.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

No. Removing one character and the sections he appeared in were probably the biggest changes I made between first and last draft. The majority of changes were structure and pace related.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

No, I’m happy with how it turned out. And readers’ responses have been very positive.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

I enjoy the part where I’m first playing around with the ideas and coming up with scenes I’d love to see play out. Brainstorming ideas is the easiest part for me.

What part do you find hardest?

Editing. No question.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

I don’t often try to force it. I tend to step back and try to look at the problem from a different angle. If I can’t move forward, I start at the end and try to work backwards. Whatever works.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

I have many ideas stewing and I usually have a couple of projects being developed at the same time.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think a bit of both. I think beyond the act of understanding the language and being able to construct sentences, you need an imagination to fuel the writing. Some people write beautifully, but have terrible ideas, and some people write horribly, but come up with the most amazing ideas. The trick is to learn your craft, understand your strengths and weaknesses and work from there.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Five or six at the moment.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I have a blog where I like to talk about the things I enjoy. It’s not all specifically writing related since I include articles about comic book, music, and movies alongside the writing stuff.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

The highlight was seeing something I wrote and finished in book form. Seeing it sit on a bookshelf and my name on the spine of the book was an incredible feeling.

Give me one writing tip that work for you.

Listen to your characters. Sometimes I’m writing and one of the characters will move the story in a direction I wasn’t planning. I like to go with the flow for a while to see where I end up. If it ends up at a dead end, it can be fixed in editing, but sometimes you stumble into surprising and exciting areas of the story you didn’t see initially.

And one that doesn't.

“Write every day”
That’s a mantra for many writers, but I sometimes need to step away. It’s important to write as often as you can to keep your skills sharp, but if the words aren’t flowing, I don’t waste too long churning out garbage before I step back.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

The next book in the series moves from Dynamo City to a whole other world…

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

Would you like to be paid $1 million dollars for your next book? The answer, most emphatically, would be YES!

Ha ha! We think most authors would give the same answer to that last question. Well, thanks for joining us today, Gareth, it's been great getting to know you.

If you'd like to know more about Gareth and follow his writing journey, then these links might help!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Playing the Fool

I love weaving comedy into my writing, no matter what the subject matter or how dark the book is in theme or plot. For me, my characters’ sense of humour is a huge part of what makes them 3D characters rather than people just reacting to events and dialogue going on around them. What I find difficult, however, is giving them a sense of humour which is different from my own. When writing characters, I can see how their thought-processes work differently to my own and how their past experiences would shape the way they act, but when it comes to humour, I find it tricky to look past what I personally would find amusing!

So how do you alter your sense of humour or adopt someone else’s? One trick that I find useful is: watching stand-up comedy! This is probably one of the most fun parts of ‘research’ (my husband would probably argue that this isn’t work… and I’d probably agree…) but watching stand-up comics who I wouldn’t seek out usually is a sure-fire way to witness multiples types of humour. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit there with a notebook, trying to analyse why they’re making a certain joke or why it’s funny, I just absorb the way they’re moving and speaking and hope that their physicality and thought-processes might seep into my characters who I wish to have a different sense of humour to myself. Of course, humour is such a spontaneous thing that you don’t want to study comedy so much that, low and behold, all the funny leaks out of it. At the end of the day, we all know that if you have to explain why something’s funny… it just ain’t funny.

My own sense of humour is quite sarcastic, I think, so many of my characters end up also being sarky. This is something I try to watch out for, and by forcing other types of humour into different characters it makes them more well-rounded individuals rather than just spin offs of myself.

Once I’ve decided on my characters’ types of humour, I re-read what I’m working on to ensure they haven’t simply become caricatures. Although we all have differing humours, no one is simply ‘one thing’, and we all adapt to who we are with. For example, most of us will demonstrate our humour in a different way around our parents than we would with our friends. So I try to make sure my characters are utilising humour in a way that seems real and authentic to their personality and their company.

And if a little bit of my own humour creeps in to my characters then that’s OK. Because at least I know there’ll be one reader who will find it funny….

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Importance Of Voice In Fiction

Voice is an important for YA fiction and fiction in general. It brings writing to life by making it feel like a person is actually telling a story. I’ve recently discovered my writing voice. It’s a quirky conversational voice. But I’m glad I’ve found my writing voice because interiority (thoughts/feelings of the character) makes the character feel fleshed out. A piece of writing can have great imagery, setting, and dialogue. Yet only using those three things emulates a journalistic feel. Voice therefore provides a balance between imagery, dialogue, setting, and exposition.
One way to achieve voice is to use both long and short sentences. A sentence can be one word or a couple of lines. Having varying sentence length creates voice by making a rhythm.
Including repetition can sometimes help. A character might use certain words or phrases a lot. For example, a character can think, “yeah” a lot. Yeah might be a simplistic. However, it goes back to style in the last paragraph because it can be used as a one word sentence.
Emotion is another way to create voice. But not only in terms of basic interiority. Sure. People feel different emotions at different times. Although people usually feel one emotion a lot. Sarcasm is the easiest emotion tool for voice. That means exaggerating something like if a character hates his job, he could say, “I just love my boss. I just so look forward to how my boss is always on my case. As if I don’t have enough to worry about already.” That’s just one example, but the point remains clear. The exaggeration adds a layer of meaning. The character isn’t saying the true meaning. It’s dressed up in the sarcasm, and breaks up the simplicity of writing, “I hate my boss because of him being strict since I already worry too much as it is.”
Clarity is the last element of voice. That means voice will have to be more polished than people talk. And that’s okay. For instance, too many uses of “I mean,” “though,” “plus,” etc. might make writing feel clunky. That isn’t to say those words can’t sometimes be used. They can. They reinforce a casual conversational tone. But they should be used in conjunction with conveying something precisely like, “Arguing was pointless because she would never shut up.” That example isn’t the most profound statement. Yet it’s clear and concise.