Young Adult Dark Urban Fantasy Author ~

Thoughts

On Writing

A series of random thoughts.

Writing is akin to hearing a thousand voices screaming at you all at once and you trying to decipher which ones you should listen to, and which ones you should ignore. Life’s a bit like that too.


Fantasy Is Hardly An Escape …

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

~ Lloyd Alexander

Omega Point Dark Fantasy Mysterious World

Omega Point Dark Fantasy Mysterious World (Photo credit: Liqueur Felix)


Wait … Should I Write That?

There is a moment now and then when writers may catch themselves and think … wait, should I write that? 

My fellow writer, and friend, Elena Ransley wrote a post titled, Just because I write it, doesn’t mean I did it.

I think her words are both honest and true. There is a fine line writers walk between fiction and fact. Fantasy and reality. So much of who we are is embedded in our stories. Our words, our voices, our hearts … our sometimes crazed imaginations. Elena writes,  “Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.”

People judge you as a person when you put your stories out there. And we can judge ourselves as words fly from our fingertips in a flurry of ideas. Whether you write horror or paranormal romance, people will either love your work and sing your praises, or wonder if you are indeed unhinged.

Does it matter? As a writer who has chosen to share their work with the world–it probably shouldn’t. It’s the risk you take when you decide to go public. It’s the reason every writer hears those few words of caution, “Grow a thick skin. You’re going to need it.”

Not everyone will praise or even like your work. Some people may hate your genre, your ideas–your imagination. And they will judge you. But we can’t please everyone and we can only write what moves us and hope our words resonate with readers.

So I leave you with this to ponder:

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write.  They hazard themselves.  Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.”  ~E.L. Doctorow

So the question is, Are you willing to put yourself out there? It’s the risk all writers have to take. The difference between owning what you love and hiding it. The difference between being public or private. Published or tucked away in a drawer.

SO WRITE ON WRITERS. Take your best shot. 😉

*** Re-posted from April 2012 ***

 

Promises

We make so many promises as writers with a hope we can fulfill them all.

~Laney McMann

**As I sit finishing my final blurb for TIED, I’m reminded of this fact. Thought I’d share it.


What’s In Being A Contracted Author?

Our computers

Our computers (Photo credit: aranarth)

Fear.

Yep, I said that.

Getting a publishing contract is everything you’ve wanted, everything you’ve worked your ass off for, and when you sign on the dotted line, everything you’re afraid of.

It’s a truth I think a lot of authors keep under wraps because some days when you sit staring at your story, the one that has a deadline attached to it now, the one that needs to be as close to perfect as you can make it—some days, it can feel like you’ve signed yourself up to fail. The days when nothing makes sense and you wonder who in their right mind, including yourself, ever thought your story could actually sell. The days when fear seeps in and hangs on.

From the legalese of contracts, to the swell of accomplishment in your chest that is almost immediately replaced by the tightening of panic, to the real edits and real deadlines, being a contracted, and soon to be published, author is both thrilling and terrifying.

But, in those split seconds when rays of light shine through the blinds in your mind, it is incredibly gratifying. The times when, for once, there are no blue, red, or green edits marking up your pages and your comments come back with “Great!” instead of “Huh?” or “Powerful.” instead of “Make it clearer.” Those are the days when every drop of doubt and ounce of fear is worth it. The days when you’re proud as hell. Maybe they’re far and few between, but those rays of light keep the writing fire burning bright and remind you that you should feel proud, maybe even excited–even if only for a second. 😉


Thankful …

I am thankful for the gift of words, the gift of insight and imagination. For my love of books and the ability to spend hours reading them.

For friends who stand by me, even when they think I’ve lost my mind, or disagree with every decision I make. You keep me upright.

For my family and their unyielding encouragement throughout my life. I would be lost without you.

For my health and sanity.

My ability to run again after my second round of physical therapy.

For music that vibrates my core and spills through me with every beat.

For my cherished memories of times and people past. I miss you.

For the chill of Autumns approach and the fall of red bruised leaves.

For all the gifts I cherish and hold dear in my life, I am truly grateful.

And of course for all of you who read, listen, like, comment and care about what I have to say, even when it’s utter nonsense. Thank You for listening.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Make Your World Breathe

 

Just breathe

Just breathe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There is no such thing as too much description.  Okay, maybe later on when you’re a few drafts in some details will need to be scaled down. But in the beginning when you are just writing, just write. Tell your story and every little detail that you see in your mind. First drafts need to be loaded with details. There will be too many but come draft two and three you can pick  and choose what’s important enough to stay and what needs to go. And through those changes your story will start to become alive.

 

Every character in your story needs a voice and I don’t only mean the ones who can talk. I mean EVERY character. The buildings, the car, the woods, the town. The world you’ve created needs to breathe. It needs life. Life in writing is created through details. The edge in someones voice, the creak of a clock tower, the feel of a touch, the sweetness of a flower. The ripped, faded jeans. The wickedly flirtatious smile. The racing blood. The charred forest. The reader needs to see it, taste it, feel it, hear it and know it. They want to walk in the world you create, to feel what the characters feel.

 

I think we all can get caught up in writing dialogue. It is no doubt, extremely important but at the end of the day, if all you have is dialogue, where’s the setting? Why does the reader care if he can’t see your characters sitting on the hillside, or fighting in the alley? The only way to create your world is to give it a personality of its own. Give it an identity and make it come alive in the minds of all who read it.

 

WRITE ON, WRITERS!

 


Spread Your Wings…and Fly

We all get a little down sometimes when trying to achieve our goals. The road from where you are now, and where you want to be, isn’t always that far. You just need to believe.

**This is a must watch for anyone who is feeling a bit stuck. Actually, it’s a must watch, period.


To DC And Back

On one of the hottest days in Washington, DC history, I was walking the streets on vacation.

Besides the monuments and the museums and every attraction that attracts visitors to DC, nothing made a more impressive statement on me than the architecture. It is truly something to behold. While the crowds made their hurried way to the next destination to avoid the blistering heat, my head was raised to the skies. Here’s what I saw:

There were many, many more beautiful buildings to see. The scale and craftsmanship on some was nothing short of astonishing.


Don’t Listen To The HYPE. (It’s All In Your Head)

After I posted my novel cover, and publication target date, to all of my social media sites, I felt a combination of relief, trepidation, and…naseau.

Truth — Besides the writing community and my very close friends and family–No One knew what I’ve been doing for the last two years. Why?

Fear.

Fear of what people will think, what they’ll say.

All that crap that means absolutely nothing. 

I mustered the courage to send my cover photo to a few friends and family, and went ahead and bit the bullet and posted it on my personal facebook page. Sad thing—that scared me more than anything else. Great thing—the response was overwhelmingly positive. And still somehow, I’m uncomfortable when my friends say, “I can’t wait to read your book!” or “That is so awesome, Laney!!”

I love them. Every one of them, for supporting me. But… I also understand what it feels like to put your soul into something and have that little devil sitting on your shoulder. The one who says, What are you thinking? You really think you can pull this off? Seriously?

As a former classical dancer, I know what it means to walk on stage and swallow fear. I’ve done it more times than I can count. After a while, it becomes old hat.

As a Chef, I know the feeling you get when someone sends something back to the kitchen because they hated it, or it was under cooked, or over cooked, or who the hell knows why. It stabs you a little.

And as the daughter of a Fine Artist—I know what it feels like from the other side of the street too. My mom has always said, “Not everyone will like, or even understand what I do. I don’t care. I’m not painting for them.”  And she’s right.

Grab support where you stumble upon it, but don’t expect to find it if you go looking. That’s not what this is about. If you’re writing for the hopes of fame and fortune, pats on the back and great reviews, you’re writing for the wrong reasons. Write for you. Dance for you. Paint for you.

The ONLY person you need to convince of your talent, your drive, your passion—is you.

Just don’t buy into the hype.


Don’t Think, Just Do.

My son, the skateboarder, is also a football player. Little league. He plays defense. Really well. On occasion, he plays on offense. Wide receiver. He’s a great receiver—in the front yard. On the field however, during a game, it’s hit or miss. 50/50. I told him it was in his head, and I believe that. He thinks too much. It’s all psychological. “Don’t think,” I told him, “Just do.”

I ran a post the other day, The Transitions, and talked about the need of an outline. Any kind of outline really. Something to lead you along incase you run astray, and lose your way. I am a pantster at heart. I believe in outlining loosely. Although I like having a guide, I feel it’s important to not rely too heavily on what you think your story should be.  So..in that light, this post may sound a bit contradictory. It’s not.

My issue with traditional outlines is the feeling of being ‘locked in’ to an idea. For me, writing becomes the most difficult when I feel like I am trying to force the pieces of this massive novel-puzzle into holes that don’t fit. Sometimes even your best ideas, dialogue streams, and world building skills, simply don’t work. Sometimes you need to loosen the grip and let the story carry you. Let your imagination run wild. You would be amazed at what your mind can create when you let go of the boundaries.

Three Worlds

Image via Wikipedia

When you get to know your characters—really know them, they will lead you, not the other way around. Everytime I feel myself getting stuck, hitting a wall, I ask myself, “What would Layla do? What would she say?” Layla is the main character in my novel—something I haven’t mentioned until now. I know her very well after almost two years of writing. Well enough that after my 6th draft, banging my head against the wall, and wanting to pull my hair out—I stopped thinking so much, and let her do the talking. Some writers think that sounds insane. While others, know exactly what I’m saying.

When stopped thinking so much, and let Layla start talking, the whole scope of my story changed, and became alive. It wasn’t me telling the story anymore, it was her showing her world—leading the way. And….it became easier to write. Yup. Sure did.

That’s not to say that I went completely astray of the ideas I had loosely outlined for my story in the very beginning, only that I allowed those ideas to stay fluid.

There is a negative with being locked in to a specific idea when you write. Well….I should rephrase that. There is a negative when you write fantasy and paranormal. These stories aren’t built on traditional ideas. They are built on wild imaginations. In order to create alter universes, planes, and worlds—we need to let go of what we think the story should be, and allow it to be what it can be. Big difference. Let your thoughts take you, let your characters take you. Writing is about allowing yourself to be transported.

“Don’t think, just do.” Then edit. 😉

WRITE ON, WRITERS.

(**after drafting this post on Saturday morning, my son caught a 30 yard touchdown pass. His team won the league championship.)


A Feast for Crows.

A Feast for Crows

Image via Wikipedia

(SMALL SPOILER ALERT)

I began this series behind most of the die-hard Martin fans. Although I am a huge Fantasy fan, I read a lot of YA as well, as it is my genre. Due to do this, Martin stayed on my back burner. Until recently. I sped through the first three books. Within days. Literally. I couldn’t get enough. A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings & A Storm of Swords were consuming stories.

A Feast for Crows, however, threw up a road block, and had me crawling to the finish line. It was a slow read. Very slow at times. The storyline of AFC needed to be split in half due to what would have been a brain-numbing amount of content. The book in its entirety would have simply been too long. Well over 1,000 pages. And I mean well over. In splitting this book however, AFC felt heavily one-sided. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, I did, but due to half of the cast of characters being cut, the book left me wanting more, and less. AFC was still, at half its content, around 775 pages long.  Although not my favorite book in this series so far, AFC is still a must read for any Martin fan. Especially if you are knee-deep in this series.

George R. R. Martin is an incredible storyteller and an inspiration for every author/writer. His cast of characters is immense, not to mention the number of details he somehow manages to not only hold inside his head, but also manages to keep straight.  Martin is currently working on The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his Fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice. I know we all hope this book will be a quick release.

**For a further review of this book, see my Goodreads shelves to the right.

Over there >>>>>>     As well as reviews and opinions of previous books in this incredible series.


Are You Shy?

I’ve never considered myself to be shy, but truth be told, I’ve always been guarded. Guarded is a sort of fancy word for introverted. Introverted and shy, it turns out, are not the same creature. I’d never given much thought to either, until now. It’s not like I’m anti-social. But the social media aspect of being a writer, and soon to be published author, is daunting for people like me. It’s like throwing yourself into an oven and praying it’s only set at around 175 degrees. Because at 400–you will burn up. 400 is too hot, too social, too LOUD.

The social media aspect of this business forces us to be just that—social. It forces us to be everywhere. All The Time. Making contacts, creating a brand—-basically, establishing a business from the ground floor. A huge undertaking, especially when we are expected to be writing good books at the same time. When you aren’t an extrovert, it’s an even harder task. Thankfully, a lot of blog and twitter friends are extroverts and that makes it easier. They draw us introverts out once in a while.

I uploaded my fledgling Facebook page the other day (come over and LIKE me), and I swear it took all I had to push ‘publish’ and go live. I felt the same way with Twitter, an outlet that is going strong now, thankfully. My blog has been, surprisingly, the easiest branch of social media for me. Why? I’m all exposed here on the blog, how could that be easier? Writing is easy. Simple as that. Talking to 500 people on Twitter….different story. (Thank you for keeping me talking Twitter followers:)

I ran across an interesting article on NPR the other day.

Quiet, Please: Unleashing ‘The Power Of Introverts’ You can find the link here: NPR Books

Susan Cain has written a book on the subject.

QUIET

The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Check it out.

When I publish my novel later this year, I will likely hide for a few weeks, due to open and blatant exposure (Kidding. Sort of;)

Are you more comfortable in a crowded room talking to any and everyone? Or do one on one conversations interest you more?


Inspiration of the Day…

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

~Nathaniel Hawthorne


The Pendulum Swing

I’ve been revising my novel for a few weeks now, gearing up for its release. I’m nowhere near completion, but working on it every day gives me a sense of forward motion and accomplishment. Which is why after finishing Chapters 1-7 in their entirety, I found myself surprised to feel that old familiar pang. The stab in the side.

Burn Out. It happens. Sometimes when you least expect it.

Figure two (a) Equatorial pendulum with longit...

Image via Wikipedia

A year and a half is a long time to dedicate to writing a novel in these technologically fast-moving times. Too long. Nonetheless, a year and a half it has been since I began. And throughout that time I have swung through emotions with the swift fluidity of a pendulum. One day in love with my words, the next, ready to chunk my laptop out the window.

I have tried editing or writing from the end of the story or somewhere in the middle for a fresh perspective. I’ve tried working on other stories in the toolbox of ideas I have amassed. But, always I come back to my current novel.  It never shuts up. I both love and hate it. I picks me up and drops me again.

Today I received an email on my chap nine revisions. The chapter that I knew was still rough after all the edits and continued to need work. I was ready for the slashes of red across the text, the comments in the margins, ready for the question marks. I didn’t get them. At least not that many. Instead, I got the opposite. My editor said she liked the chapter, she said it had life in it.

Life.

Not sure I could receive a greater compliment than that. So today, novel, I love you again. You still need work, but you have life;)

Good Writing!


Behind the Black Screen

I received a beautiful Charles Dickens hardback for Christmas, complete with five novels. Oliver Twist, A Tale Of Two Cities, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol (my all time favorite) and Great Expectations. The weight alone, 1483 pages, is impressive. The gilded pages and heavy dark cover indicate it’s value and overall worth in a time far past.

I also received an iPhone 4gs and with it, a storm of headaches. Half of my iTunes library, to which consists of over one thousand songs, got wiped out. Panic was quickly replaced by anger, replaced by heartbreak. My music. I can’t put into words how important it is to me. How would I replace it all? How would I even remember all of it?

An illustrated copy of Tolkien‘s The Hobbit, a hugely scaled hardback encased behind glass at a local bookstore, spoke to me. It was probably two feet in width and height, under lock and key. I wanted it the second I saw it, untouched and unowned. Books like these are treasures and meant to be treasured and adored. Now it seems they are a dying breed. I bought the book in all it’s 1977 glory.

I’m reading the fourth book in the George R. R. Martin series, A song of Fire and Ice, A Feast for Crows. I’ve been downloading them one by one onto my Nook. It occurred to me over the holidays just how upset I would be if this series, a sure to be classic in its own right, was somehow lost behind the black screen. Irretrievable. Like my music.

If I lost my novels, these treasures of mine — the thought makes me ill. I love the ease and convenience of my Nook. But what about my Dickens, my Tolkien? Is it the same if I have downloaded copies of these masterpieces?

Here’s the glitch with technology. Everything can get backed up, copied, protected. But like with my music, there are no guarantees. And even if there were, is it the same when these legendary authors are hidden behind the black screen? Not for me it isn’t. The history gets lost somewhere in the technology for me. I need the paper for these stories to remain alive and true. Weight, storage, inconvenience — all of those reasons we have to stop buying paper and start downloading —  I agree with. Until we start messing with the classics. I’ll take those in all their hardback glory.


Inspiration of the day:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

~Albert Einstein


Spammage

The best spam comment I’ve read all week:

“Call me wind because I am blown away by your post!”

Glad I could help.


Novel 1 Update

I have had an inspired week filled with edits and revisions. My MS has now been relinquished for the real edits to begin and what I am positive will be full-blown revisions to follow.

Instead of going into an extended state of anxiety awaiting judgement, I plan to focus all of my energy on finishing my second WIP. As my current novel has taken what feels like forever to finish, I have a new-found confidence that the second will be a much quicker process.

I am hoping to gain some insight on creating a new title (or sticking with the original) as mine has been found elsewhere. I have created a list of around twenty possibilities, half of which I have already shot down. With any luck my title will be released here on the blog soon. My cover has also been completed.

Good writing to you;)


Thankful..

I am thankful for the gift of words, the gift of insight and imagination. For my love of books and the ability to spend hours reading them.

For friends who stand by me, even when they think I’ve lost my mind or disagree with every decision I make. You keep me upright.

For my family and their unyielding encouragement throughout my life. I would be lost without you.

For my health and sanity.

My ability to run again after my second round of physical therapy.

For music that vibrates my core and spills through me with every beat.

For my cherished memories of times and people past. I miss you.

For the chill of Autumns approach and the fall of red bruised leaves.

For all the gifts I cherish and hold dear in my life, I am truly grateful.

And of course for all of you who read, listen, like, comment and care about what I have to say, even when its utter nonsense. Thank You for listening.


How important is the Title?

What role does a title play in the overall feel of a book? Does it pull at your heart-strings, begging you to pick it up or is the cover more important as a draw?

Since I am now in the position of weighing my options in regard to changing my title (or clinging to it with both hands), I’ve given the whole process quite a bit of thought.

There are a good amount of book titles out there that have little or no relevance to story content. Good books. Books that I’m sure had original titles, titles that fit and worked, only to be changed in order to draw more readers.

In the YA fantasy/paranormal genre they seem more prevalent. So here’s the question: Should the title represent the story? Or should the aim of a title be to draw more readers regardless of its relevance to the book?

Example: Twilight. Stephenie Meyer intended the first book of this series to be titled FORKS. It represented the town obviously, but it also represented where Bella was in her life. Stuck at various cross-roads, trying to do the right thing, make the right decisions. Put aside the fact the we are all comfortable, and there for biased to the Twilight title, and ask yourself if it really works. Does it have any real relevance to the story? It makes a great sounding book. It fits the cover nicely. It sold millions of copies.

How about Beautiful Creatures (Darkness and Chaos), a favorite series of mine, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. These books are magical and dark and delicious. They also have a different title. The original one. SIXTEEN MOONS (and Seventeen and Eighteen). Titles that fit beautifully with the storyline. But those titles aren’t the ones we see.

How about JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Pretty clear that her titles (and covers) could not be more perfectly matched to the story.

Michael Scott‘s The Alchemist? The Magician? All the titles in this incredible series are also wonderfully in sync with both story line and book covers.

That all being said, I am assuming it’s the romantic paranormal side of YA that tends to fall to luring titles, regardless of story content. Pretty covers sell. Put a catchy title on that pretty cover and you just increased your odds of selling a book.

So, what do you think? Choose the title that fits the storyline and hope it appeals to your readers? Choose the title that grips you as the writer from the start? Or choose a title (and cover) that targets your genre regardless of relevance to the book?

I know, I know. Be savvy enough to meld them all (EXCEPT relevance, I can’t move past that). Just answer the question;) 


‘Tis the season

My weekend task….erect the Christmas lights. I have about 75 strands in varying lengths. All in one big tangled mass. Every year I end up needing to replace about half of the stock. No matter how much I complain that this year, I’ll wind them up in neat little bundles and protect their delicate bulbs, it never happens. After the days it takes to assemble them all over my yard, the last thing I want to do is take them back down. I generally use force. Force tends to damage them, along with the brittle branches and leaves that come loose and entangled in the wires. I drop them, strand by strand, into an oversized Tupperware with the leaves and twigs still jutting out, no rhyme or reason, and every year, I end up with this:

I managed to find a few cords to plug-in for the photo. I didn’t shoot the ones still in boxes or in piles of ‘burnt out’ vs. ‘half still work’ (you can still use those) on the floor.

Have to admit though, they are so pretty all lit up. I’ve considered just hanging them like that from tree limbs. You know, like giant unorganized ornaments. They’d be beautiful at night;)


It’s inspired

I pay more than I probably should for notebooks. Since I am more of a note taker/idea scribbler than laptop document creator (although, I have a lot of them too), my notebooks are abundant. More specifically, they are everywhere. In an effort to hide the clutter messes I create, I’ve fallen to buying pretty notebooks. They are much nicer to look at than yellow legal pads and ordinary spiral notebooks (I have those too though. In drawers).

The beauty of these notebooks, besides the obvious, is that they have an almost beckoning effect. They plead to be picked up, written in and read through.

Just one of my small pleasures.


But….wait…that’s MY title!

Yep, after a year and a half, my title has been taken. *sigh*

It’s a good title, a title that fits beautifully with the story. I can’t even wrap my head around changing it.

Now what?