Because of Twitter – A Sneak Preview of Book Three’s Cover

When I logged into Twitter today, I was offered the chance of updating my profile.

Now, if you haven’t been keeping up with Twitter news, they’ve decided to make several changes to your personal profile page. In the end, it makes it look very much like a Facebook profile page.

This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve often wished Twitter would allow a larger, and more prominent, banner image. Another handy feature is you can pin a post you specify to be “Featured” on your profile. The featured post will always be listed at the top of your profile.

Now, as an Indie Author, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity to pimp my wares. So I created a new banner, which is very similar to my Facebook page banner for one exception… it has a picture in the place where book three, Resonance, will go. And yes, that picture is the beginning of the new cover. It’s not a hoax, or a stand in. The image you see will in fact be the background image for Resonance’s cover.

More elements will be added, to keep it in line with the design style of Harbinger and Suture, and when that happens, I’ll be posting the completed cover image here first.

In the meantime, here’s the beginnings of Book Three’s cover, as seen now on Twitter.

Book3-Cover

The Late-Night Habits of a Wannabe Writer

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous KilljoysIt’s 11:58pm as I write this.

I’m sitting in bed, propped with my back against the wall. My laptop is sitting on a breakfast-in-bed tray and my wife is sleeping next to me (she has a cold). I’m wearing headphones which have just finished pumping out My Chemical Romance’s newest album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, and have now moved on to Neon Trees’ album, Habits.

My intent was to power through a ton of words on The Veil. Instead, I’ve read Neon Trees - Habitsthrough a number of posts on Twitter, signed an Internet petition (which you should do as well if you’re in Canada & don’t want to see us gouged further for Internet use http://openmedia.ca/meter). Also through Twitter, I went over to Regan Leigh’s blog to check out a guest post on writing book reviews when you want to be a writer. Great post with some decent insights to keep in mind. I left a comment stating my overall love of the article & then finally opened The Veil.

I’ve written maybe 100 words of actual story. However, I’ve also written a number of editing notes on the earlier chapters.

I’m not prepared to let myself edit The Veil until I’ve finished it. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had ideas as to how I want to change some of the earlier chapters. So I’m taking advantage of my writing software and leaving notes on the chapters as to the edits and new scenes I’m thinking about.

Now I’m here at the blog. Writing an entry that really is just blathering about how I spend my time when I sit down with my laptop to write. And probably explaining why it’s taken me so long to only get 76% of the way to a complete first draft.

So don’t be like me. Stop wasting more time on the Internet. Go write. Now. Like I’m going to try and do.

Clock says it’s 12:14am. Hoping to remain conscious until 1am to at least crank out another 300-500 words.

TTYL

Twitter – Time to get Social

First, a little disclosure.

  1. I am not a master of social media.
  2. I have made no money from Twitter.
  3. I have not sold a book via Twitter.
  4. I have a small number of followers (approx 300).

So, I’m not going to give you keys to the kingdom or anything; which is fine because that’s not what this article is about.

Instead, I want to talk about some things I notice as a Twitter user. Will they help you succeed in whatever endeavors you have? Maybe. At the very least, it should help you have more fun and see more value from Twitter.

Say Something

First off, Twitter is a social network. So why not get social? There are some amazing people on Twitter who are very giving, supportive and willing to go an extra mile for complete strangers. There’s people on Twitter that I’ve never met in the flesh, but I would trust their opinions when it comes to critiquing The Veil. If all you’re going to do is lurk about, you’ll never gain the full benefits of Twitter.

Are there great people on Twitter that you can just sit back and listen to? Yup. I’ve learned a ton from following people who have never actually spoken to me. But those who have really helped me, the ones I hope and pray will one day make the Veil a book worth reading, are the ones I speak to frequently. So for goodness sake, don’t just sit there, speak to people!

Fill In Your Bio

Another piece of advice, take advantage of the bio section of your profile. You don’t need to chronicle your life or anything, just say who you are and what you do. If someone new follows me and they say they are a writer, I automatically follow back. Not everyone does, but I do because I figure we have our writing in common and I might learn something from them.

On the other hand, if someone follows me and they have no bio, I don’t follow back. I know it may be some old school type of paranoia, but what do you have to hide? Are you so lazy you couldn’t take ten minutes to tell us about yourself? Heck, Neil Gaiman and his kin are uber famous, and all of them have a bio.

In regards to the bio, understand if your bio says you are a marketing type person and you follow me, I won’t automatically follow you back. Now if you start talking to me and I realise your focus is on book marketing, I’m your new friend! Like I said, get social.

Profile Picture

I know, not everyone wants their mug thrown on the internet for all the world to see. If you’re one of those people, do something creative. Use one of those “Create an Avatar” sites to make an anime version of yourself. Or take a picture where you use crafty methods to hide part of your face. In either case, having a profile picture that is original goes a long way toward me thinking you’re here for a good reason. Default pictures are all too often the domain of the Spambot.

Content

You’re going to read different opinions everywhere on the net. So here’s my opinion of what I, a normal average guy, like to see. Feel free to post personal stuff, to an extent. If there’s some movie you love, or even food you like to eat, I’m good with that. I don’t need to know where you are every second of the day.

Feel free to write about the things that influence your writing. Feel free to write about the books you’re reading. Please write about your trials and tribulations as you work on your Work in Progress. If you find something useful or interesting on the net, say so.

In short, let me get to know you, as a person and a writer. That’s part of being social.

Twitter does not have to be solely about building a money generating machine. In fact, if that’s all you’re doing, I’m unsubscribing.

Twitter can be a great tool to learn, network and get suggestions. In order to do all those things, you need to be honest, yourself, and put forth some effort. All good relationships need those things.

First, a little note saying “Thanks!”

I just wanted to take a moment here to publicly acknowledge a whole community that I consider myself fortunate for discovering.

Under different names and websites, I have been active on the net for twelve years or more.  In that time, I felt largely ignored and monumentally alone.  Seeing as how website creation, blogging and writing poetry & fiction have been my hobbies over the years, it can make for a solitary existence.  It’s so easy to give up on a project or not bother to blog for months on end when you feel that all you’re doing, all you’ll ever be doing, is talking to yourself.

A month ago, I decided to join Twitter as Justus R Stone (my chosen pen name).  I started doing some research and through useful hash tags such as #amwriting started connecting with other writers.  Some of these people are already published, many more are hard at work getting there.  Universally, they all pass along outstanding advice and support.

This blog is new.  This will be the 14th post.  And yet I have had more people make comments on my articles here than I did on any other blog or website I have owned in the past 12 years.  It is so much easier to sit down and write my work in progress, or do a blog entry, when it feels like there are people pulling for me.

Now, I do have a loving wife and kids who are always in my corner, but none of them are writers.  It is an entirely different experience to receive support and encouragement from those that share your passion and understand the trials that passion brings.

So I just wanted to say thank you to all those who have come to visit, to those who are following the feed and to those who join me on Twitter.  You have all made this new step into realising my dream much easier and made obtaining that end goal seem all the more attainable.

It’s OK to suck

While I have never been diagnosed, I believe I have a number of ADD tendencies.  I tend to move from one task to another, leaving various tasks only half complete.  It’s hard for me to sit in one place doing only one thing for too long.  Obviously, you can see how this makes being a writer difficult.

I can cope with this.  When I write, I listen to music, which makes me feel like I am doing multiple things at once.  I also will take breaks to check Twitter, get a drink, dance the hokey-poky, whatever.  This said, the one trait that I have that makes writing hard, and has been fatal to other WIP in the past, has been my desire to have everything perfect now.

The “make it right the first time” demon has sabotaged many of my endeavors in the past.  Whether it be the three other partial novels I have, or my career as a sax player, I have been plagued by this monster that allows for no time.  It sits on my shoulder, insisting that I must do it right the first time.  Revision?  For fools it tells me.  It whispers its poisonous diatribe over and over in my ear.  It tells me lies  like “[Insert author name here] writes perfect stories in one sitting.”  So by the time I finish a chapter and things haven’t turned out quite right, I get easily discouraged and start to doubt the strength of my story.  This demon has me believing that the only time I will be successful is when I sit down and the words flow with no effort and I write a book in a matter of days that requires no editing and will be published a month later.  It’s taken me some time to realise the demon is in no way realistic.

Twitter has been a freeing experience.  It has allowed me to follow writers as they work.  You know what I found out?  They all suck at one time or another.  At some time, they all finish a chapter and call it complete rubbish.  Some have gone so far as to completely delete the whole thing and start again.

My demon still sits on my shoulder.  It still protests loudly when my writing sounds like the stunted first steps of a toddler.  But I am learning to ignore it.  I am learning that if I am ever to truly call myself a writer, I need to write.  And not just write, but finish.  It is not important to be perfect the first time around.  It doesn’t matter if the first draft is utter rubbish and breaks every rule of grammar and contains none of the plotting devices that create a page-turner.  What matters, is that it is finished.  What matters is that something exists that wasn’t there before.  By having completed a first draft, already part of the battle is won.

It’s OK to suck the first time around.  Heck, it’s OK to suck the second time around.  Maybe around the third or fourth time, you should suck considerably less, but there may still be room for improvement and it might require a great editor to help you realise where and how to fix it.  By letting myself suck, I am getting further ahead.  By focusing on the story and the ideas, I am creating something better and stronger.  The words will come.  The revisions will add the depth my first draft lacks.  By the time I finish the first draft, I’ll know my characters better.  I’ll know my world better.  Once I know these things, I’ll recognize places where I can let those things shine through where I missed them the first time around.  My demon is wrong.  Great writing doesn’t happen immediately.  It happens over time.  Revision is where the truth of your quality as a writer will be born.  A road doesn’t start out as being smooth.  First, there has to be the messy hacking through the forest, the churning of earth, the repeated flattening again and again.  A story is much the same.

I suck.  And that’s OK.

It’s blog, it’s blog, it’s better than bad, it’s good!

So I was up last night following two interesting Twitter discussions.  The first, found with the hashtag #yalitchat, was a group of writers, editors, agents, etc, all discussing Young Adult literature.  It’s a regular occurring chat with a different focus each week.  Last night focused on knowing when to start sending out querries on your manuscript, but mostly ended up focusing on dealing with rejection!  That chat then spiraled out into another chat, found with hashtag #askagent.  My eyes were going blurry, and really, it is damn hard to keep up with the ever spiralling refresh of new tweets.  One interesting thing that came out was a comment from an agent that aspiring writers shouldn’t have a blog that deals with writing.

This left me with a bit of a cunundrum.  I just started this site, ummm, on April 3rd (just had to go check!).  It was so strong in my mind that it had to be about writing and my journey as a writer.

See, the web is filled with advice.  So much advice, that frankly, it can be overwhelming.  If you search for how to succeed as a blogger, the common pieces of advice you receive are 1) Blog what you know and love 2) Keep on topic or else you’ll never gain readers and/or lose those you already have.  So, if I want to be a writer and spend a great deal of my free time writing and researching to improve my writing, what is it you think I love?  Well, this is a bit of a pickle.

So I go to a few of my favourite authors’ blogs to see what they write about.  Guess what, they write about writing, their interests, and what they are currently doing to publicise, or sell the rights to, their work.  The advantage existing authors have is that they are already paid writers.  They can write about damn near anything, and their existing fan base will come check it out.  Neil Gaiman goes all over the world, meets tons of interesting people and does all that because of his existing body of work.  Now, take me.  I’m not published.  Hell, I don’t even have a finished manuscript to show.  If I wrote about my day, it would read something like, “Today, I woke up, got the kids to school, put some laundry in, emptied the dishwasher, checked my email, ate something, picked up the kids, watched TV, ate something, put the kids to bed, wrote, went to bed.”  I’m totally gripped by that, aren’t you?  No?  Damn…

Simply put, the average joe who is trying to work toward fulfilling their dream of being a writer probably doesn’t lead that amazing lifestyle that people might be interested in reading.  We’re just like you.  Maybe.  So what does an aspiring author do with their blog?

Balance.  That’s right, balance.

Side note: Notice my blogs these past two days boil down to one word?  Yesterday was Why? and now today is Balance.  Now back to our regularly scheduled program….

I guess having a blog that is filled with nothing but advice on writing when I’m not even a published author is, um, pretentious?  Really, why should you listen to me?  What the hell do I know that you don’t?  Nothing.  So what I’m doing is sharing my experience.  It might be right, it might be the most wrong thing in the entire world for you.  But it doesn’t hurt to try, right?  An aspiring writer’s blog, from what I can tell, needs to contain a balance of advice, pointing readers to things we find interesting, book reviews, personal experiences, maybe even some whining about how our writing makes us feel insecure.  After all, writing is as much about discovering yourself as it is your characters (ooh, that’s good, I’m going to tweet that!).

So there you have it.  Balance.  Long winded to get to that simple answer.  But you know what they say, it isn’t the destination, it’s the journey.  LOL!

The Most Important Question is “Why?”

If you follow me on Twitter, or just check out my Twitter feeds on the site, you might have noticed my two tweets from yesterday that stated,

As great ideas increasingly come, they bring with them certain logic problems to be solved #amwriting

Great thing about solving logic problems though, it helps to deepen the story & present new & interesting directions #amwriting

I thought that I would expand on those two thoughts today.  I don’t claim this is the reinvention of the wheel, nor that this advice is in any way new or ground breaking.  It’s just that yesterday, this made perfect sense to me.

I spent most of the day driving in the car with my wife.  I would either contemplate my current WIP, or openly discuss it with her.  The more ideas I thought of, in terms of plot, overall mythology and character development, the more I realised there were problems.  For instance, if the main character does action B, what happened to action A?  If the character has to do action B for the plot to progress, I either have to insert action A, or explain why it makes perfect sense for action A to be skipped.  Or, if a certain scene has to exist to accomplish something in the overall plot, how does that scene occur?  Why do we end up there?  Why?  Why?  And most importantly, Why?

As I forged ahead and answered a number of these nagging Whys, I realised just how much deeper my plot was becoming.  I also came to the realisation that a stronger inner logic was forming that would give the world a better grounding.  In sci-fi, fantasy or spec-fic particularly, but I suppose horror, romance and just about any genre that bends, adds to, or all together disregards, our common reality, it is important for there to be rules.  If Superman can fly, why does he fly?  Answer: he’s an alien.  So did all of Superman’s people fly on his home planet?  No.  Why?  Because they had a red sun and it is our yellow sun that grants him these powers.  See what I mean?  As you answer the question why, your mythology deepens.  The further down you dig, eventually you will hit firm bedrock and you’ll know that your mythology makes sense.

Using my Superman example, we now have several plot points that we could include in a novel.  Superman is an alien but our story is set on Earth.  How does he get here?  Superman never had abilities on his home world, so he would develop them here on Earth.  That could be an extensive storyline.  Oh wait, eight or more seasons of Smallville owe their existence to this kind of thinking.

Think about this.  The Twilight series started with a dream about a girl laying in a field with a boy who sparkled in the sunlight.  That’s it.  By asking the questions of why does he sparkle, why are they together, and I’m sure numerous other why questions that came along, a whole series was born.

Harry Potter could have started as simply as an image in the author’s mind of a boy with a scar.  Why does he have a scar?  Why did someone try to kill him? You see how this is going?

By constantly asking why of our stories, situations, characters, etc, we create the bulk of our story and provide ground rules that will keep our reader engaged.  When we make rules up on the fly or break established rules of our world without sufficient reasoning, we lose our audience.  As an example I present you with a tale of two movies, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and The Matrix.

While considerably different movies, both featured incredible fight scenes where characters defied gravity.  In the Matrix this was explained.  The very foundation of the movie allowed for the flexing of typical laws of gravity.  Audiences were thrilled and totally into the wire work on display.  When I left the theatre, all I heard from people around me was that the movie was amazing and how the fight scenes were incredible.  Crouching Tiger did not really explain the abilities of its characters to defy gravity, it took it for granted that the audience watching the film was acquainted with the cultural heritage it came from and would therefore accept what they saw without question.  Unfortunately, seeing this in a Canadian theatre, there were clearly people there that thought this was a Chuck Norris film.  Walking out, I could hear people muttering how it was stupid that they could fly etc.  Granted, cultural ignorance of the genre contributes, but it illustrates my point.  People will accept the breaking of accepted laws, as long as you give it a reason grounded in the world of the story.  By doing this, The Matrix found a much larger accepting audience than it would have if it just took for granted everyone watching loved anime and its penchant for defying gravity.

If your character does magic, why?  Does everyone in your world do magic?  If not, be prepared to answer why.

Embrace these logic problems.  They present incredible opportunities to develop plot and character.  As I said, this is just my observation from my own journey through the creative process.  Hope it helps.