Author Archives: zissadc

5 Things Not to Say to the Writer in Your Life

Once you start announcing that you’re a writer, a lot of things are said. Questions about your work, your motivation, your plans and everything else that anyone could possibly question come up. Comments about the validity of writing as a profession, your chances of being successful in the field, and options for writing in the professional spectrum are (ahem) helpfully  doled out. Sometimes even outright criticism surfaces. These are just a few of the statements we hear a lot and we wish we never did.

What Not to Sayto the Writer in Your

“What’s your [insert story, novel, or novella] about?”

We appreciate your interest, and love the fact that you care enough to ask, but…that question is pretty much impossible to answer without sounding like a moron. We’re writers, and while some of us are lucky enough to be able to speak as well as we write, most are not (me included). Intricate, sweeping epics are reduced to a few jumbled, confusing sentences mumbled by a darty-eyed writer who looks like they want to sink into the floor when this question is asked. You’re sweet, but do us a favor and read the official synopses when the book comes out.

 “Can I read it?”

Thanks for offering, and I mean this in the best possible way, but NO, YOU ABSOLUTELY MAY NOT. If it isn’t already published–whether traditionally or on a site for beta readers–there’s typically a reason. We bare a part of our souls in every story we write and it’s hard to let go of our work, even when it is ready for public consumption, let alone before.

“Is [insert certain character] a real person? Who is it?”

… Maybe.  But considering that I may or may not have had them murdered with a fried zucchini in chapter three, I’d rather not say. Some writers do pull characters from their own lives and there’s always the possibility that they’ve used elements of the person asking, which can make for a truly awkward conversation if the qualities pulled are unflattering.

“Are you published yet?”

If the writer in question is not yet published, this can be awkward and embarrassing and on the whole, a humiliating reminder that they’re not as successful as they planned on being after countless drafts and years of editing. If they are, the implication that you doubt their ability to write a publishable piece can…well…sting. A lot. Not a great outcome either way.

 “You know you can’t make money doing that, right?”

…Do you know how often writers hear/read that? DO YOU?!?!? Of course we know it’s not always a viable career. That’s not the point. The point is getting to do what we love, regardless of whether or not it means suffering through an office job the rest of our lives to support the habit. We know the likelihood of our work taking off is slim, but we still have to give it a shot. And even if it never puts one extra dollar in our accounts, it makes us happy.

How about you? Any particular things you hate hearing as a writer?

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Burnout and How to Beat It

Do you ever feel hopelessly stuck in the middle of a story? Or just too exhausted from real life to throw yourself into a fictional one? It’s easy to get burned out, especially if you’re trying to juggle writing with a job, school, family, and the billion other things that will demand your attention. It’s not fun and it’s not easy to have ideas and feel unable to write them, but remember who and what you are: a writer. It’s a title that comes with doing. Not doing something perfectly, merely doing something. Like these things, perhaps.

1. Write Stuff.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just that you are. Do some journaling, scribble down some really pathetic fanfiction, make overly detailed lists of what you did today–just write something! You won’t feel like it, but do it anyway. Nine times out of ten, once you’ve been at it for a few minutes, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the words just like you used to–even if the words you’re lost in aren’t exactly a masterpiece.

2. Write Different Stuff.

Switch projects. Maybe several times. Burnout can easily stem from falling into a rut, whether that rut involves obsessing over a single project, settling into a dull writing routine, or simply getting bored. Trying something new or alternating between several different types of projects (eg. a novel and an essay, or a short story and a memoir) can be enough to reignite your interest and draw you back into your passion.

3. Write Stuff for Yourself.

For me at least, one of the things that stops me from writing is knowing that other people will read what I write and might not like it. That’s stressful and can lead to so much hair-pulling and nail-biting that suddenly writing at all seems rather unappealing. The best way to break that mentality is to write things that are for your eyes only(at least to begin with) and forget about everyone else’s opinions for the time being. Write things the way you would if no one else was ever going to see them and you’ll find yourself having a lot more fun.

4. Don’t Write Stuff.

Sometimes, the best way to get back into the groove is to step out of it entirely for a while. Give yourself a well deserved break. I keep running across quotes from famous writers on Pinterest and Tumblr about how a true writer writes every day or how a writer can’t not write, but I don’t agree. Everyone needs a break once in a while, no matter how much they may love what they do. Parents take breaks from time to time; does that mean they aren’t true parents? Doctors, nurses, and police officers do, too, but that doesn’t make them bad at their jobs. So, why is it any different for writers? If you’re tired, go have an unhealthy snack, read a few good books(fun ones–books about writing don’t count), and come back to your project in a few days when you’ve had a chance to collect yourself.

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It’s Been HOW Long?!?

So…um…hi.

It’s been almost a year since I published anything, so I was surprised when I cracked open the stats page to find that you guys were still here. Still reading. Still commenting. Still caring. Thanks for sticking around! Life got busy and the blog wasn’t as much of a school requirement anymore, so I let it go for a while. That was a mistake. I’ll try to get back up and do better in the future.

In the meantime, a lot of stuff has happened. I finished high school (Also a mistake. Can I please go back now? Real life is hard.), started college(Paralegal studies…woo-hoo.), got a job at a chiropractic office(Not remotely what I imagined.), and passed my driver’s test (My city really needs a public transit system.). Adulthood struck once again, devouring all energy and creativity with it.

But I don’t want to let my writing life end with high school. Here’s hoping talking to you guys can help keep me on track…because after all, my sanity–which, to be fair, is long gone–is optional, but my writing? That’s required.

Expect to see more of me soon, as well as changes and updates around the blog.

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The Five Things a Writer Needs to Read

1. The Classics

They’ve survived for centuries for a reason. Even if they aren’t your favorite light reading (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you if they aren’t, despite the apparent belief that all writers must devote their bookshelves only to authors who’ve been published for over a century or whose work is primarily existential) , they’re well worth the read.

2. Your Genre

If you’re well-versed in your chosen genre, you’ll soon get a pretty good idea of its cliches and common mistakes, as well as how to avoid them.

3. Your Old Work

I know it’s painful. Very, very painful. I ran across some of mine the other day and had to fight the urge to feed it down the garbage disposal. But, not only can you see how far you’ve come, you can pinpoint areas you may still struggle with. Who knows, you may even find something worth salvaging for a new piece.

4. Other Writers’ Work

Because it’s way easier to spot other people’s mistakes than it is your own. And the more practice you get at problem-spotting, the easier it’s going to be to spot your own mistakes, from plot holes to painful word choice to grammar accidents. There are various sites that cater to amateur authors (fanfiction.net, fictionpress.com, etc.) that work well for this sort of thing.

5.The Things that Set Your Soul on Fire

You know what I’m talking about. The stories that made you want to write your own in the first place. The ones that spark new ideas and make you think. That fire up your creative spirit when you think  you’re too exhausted to write. Whatever you enjoy the most, that’s what you should be reading. So, go! Read!

What do you read to help yourself write? Let me know in the comments!

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I’ve Been Liebstered

Imagine my surprise when I check the blog after a long hiatus and find that a certain very gracious, very generous, very complimentary person has left me a Liebster award and some very kind words. Thank you, SJ O’Hart! I can’t say how much I appreciate that and what a nice return to the blogosphere it was.

However, I can say that your questions are very…thoughtful. Or, in common vernacular, REALLY, REALLY DIFFICULT! Below are my not-so-thoughtful answers to some brilliant questions.

What is your favourite smell, and why?

The smell of the outdoors in autumn. It’s crisp and cold and nostalgic, and for the past twelve years, it’s meant the beginning of the school year, which meant all the exciting social events and holidays were getting closer.

What object in the world would you most like to own?

An all-access card for restricted and immensely interesting places like Area 51. What can I say? I like to know things.

If you were a number, which number would you be – and why?

That’s…difficult. Partially because I tend to imagine numbers and colors and the like as characters (What can I say? I’m weird. Writer’s prerogative.), some of which are likeable and others not so much. I have no idea where my impressions came from, but they’re stuck in my brain. Seven is a sardonic, worldy anti-hero.  Four is an affable, but not too bright, girl who has fallen hard for Seven and follows him around, much to his annoyance. Two is a remarkably irritating do-gooder, and six is the fussy, motherly type and…

Suddenly, I realize why I have such a problem with Math-related courses.

Anyway, since all of these guys are firmly established in my mind, it’s a little hard to imagine myself as a number when they all have their own personalities already. But if I had to, I’d probably say Eight because it’s bossy and determined and one of the few feminine numbers that come to mind.

What is your biggest regret (if it’s something you can share)?

It’s…um…not.

What are you most afraid of?

Failure.  Falling of short of expectations and disappointing people terrify me. Also, spiders.

What is your favourite piece of visual art (i.e. not music, literature, theatre), and why?

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. I realize that that particular painting is the favorite of millions of people and not an overly unique choice, but all the same, it’s mine, too. I was in New York several months ago, and one of my big regrets about the trip was not being able to drop by and see it. The colors and the feeling and the energy of the piece (not to mention the subject matter) are individually stunning, but when melded into a singular work of art are truly phenomenal. Which is probably why it’s one of the most popular paintings ever. It reminds me of my dreams and that breathless sort of feeling you get when you’ve actually managed to live one.

Tell me about the best dream you ever had.

The best dream I ever had involved me falling into a place between fictional worlds, wherein various fictional characters and realities mix, and going on an adventure with a group of my favorite characters. I didn’t want it to end.

If you could be anyone, from any historical period, who would you be – and why?

Personally, I’d just prefer to stick where I am. The past is fascinating, but not an overly friendly place. The future is intriguing, but that’s where I’m headed anyway. Now, if I had a time-machine to jump between periods, that’s an entirely different story…

So, there are my answers and I am now expected to provide questions and nominees of my own. However, since I’ve been pretty much out of the game for the past few months, I’m a little short of people to nominate. Therefore, it falls to you, dear readers. I challenge anyone who reads this post to answer my questions in the comments. Happy blogging, folks!

1. Tell me how you met your very best friend.

2. Your favorite city/region (caveat: you must have actually visited the place in question) and why it holds that title.

3. If you had the resources to take any profession you chose outside of your current one, what would it be? Why?

4. Tell me about the most hilarious experience you’ve ever had.

5. Every family has that one person who’s larger than life: tell me about yours.

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Character Development: Your Character and the Holidays – PART ONE

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  Given how early everything holiday-related seems to be starting this year, this seemed appropriate….though, personally, I think you should hold the Christmas music until at least Black Friday.

  I’ll be using Alec Griffin, one of the main characters from my series. He’s been a bit of a challenge for me to get to know, so the more I can ferret out of him, the better.

1. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Twelfth Night, April Fool’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Bonfire Night. His favorite is April Fool’s Day, because that gives him a valid excuse to be even more of a nuisance than he already is.

2. Alec loves holidays. All holidays. He gets a day off to party with the people he loves. What could be better than that?

3. He would rebel and probably end up being more troublesome than productive.

4. Alec celebrates by inviting everyone he knows and a few he doesn’t over for a day(or night)-long party. As for his family, all he has is his parents, and since they live half a world away, they rarely come to his celebrations or he to theirs.

5. Despite his progressiveness in everything else, the holidays are one aspect of Alec’s life that must stay the same at all costs. Tradition is key and must never, ever be ignored.

6. Pie. It doesn’t matter what kind or what holiday, Alec always goes for the pie.

7. Spoilsports, mostly. He hates it when someone rains on his parade of happiness and good cheer.

8. His favorite part of the holidays is that it can bring his friends together for reasons other than an imminent apocalypse or other dire circumstances. It’s the one part of his life that can be kept normal.

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NaNoWriMo?

Since I’m (sort of) trying the aforementioned self-inflicted torture this month, I’m letting you guys write this post. Have any of you done NaNo, and won? Done Nano and lost? What did you think of it? What kind of novel did you write? Did you try to do anything with it after the first draft? Any advice for someone doing Nano for the first time? Comment below!

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Somebody Order A Villain?:Part Two

~ Firstly, I apologize for the absence. I started my senior year, so between course work, college prep, working, trying to find a better job, and non-school-related life…I got a little distracted. ~

As I’ve already made abundantly clear, I’m quite fond of villains. In many cases, they’re more interesting than their hero counterparts(and usually better dressed). They’re unpredictable, appearing in all shapes, sizes, and emotional states. They’re troubled, by anything from guilt to greed to the continued existence of the human race. And everything that makes them fun to hate and a joy to read also makes them terrors to write properly.

 

 

1. Sauron – A good villain is driven.

 

 

Whatever it is that your villain wants, he has to want it with every fiber of his soul. Heroes can occasionally be apathetic about what they’re trying to accomplish since they’re often dragged into quests and adventures against their will, but the bad guys cannot.  If your villain is lackadaisical about getting what he/she wants, then the rest of your story is going to lag, as well.

 

 

The Eye of Sauron as portrayed in Peter Jackso...

The Eye of Sauron as portrayed in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy as Sauron’s form in the Third Age. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron stopped at nothing to retrieve the One Ring. He sent all kinds of nasty beasties and recruited unsavory characters to help see that little piece of power returned. A fact that helped keep the action going through three books and as many movies.

 

 

2. A good villain believes in what he’s doing.

 

 

Considering the things that villains do? They better believe in it!  Without believing that his actions will bring him to his goal, a villain won’t be driven(see above) to do much of anything and you won’t have a story.

 

 

Granted, there may be doubts. Every human on the face of the planet has doubts from time to time, and letting your baddie have some from time to time can go a long way toward making her more human. However, unless your tale is a tale of redemption, make sure she pushes through them.

 

 

3. Professor Moriarty – A good villain is the kind of person your protagonist would have as a BFF.

 

 

If he wasn’t, you know, evil. In a lot of great fiction, the protagonist and the antagonist are two sides of the same coin. Good and evil versions of the same person, if you simplify things.

 

 

Take Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, for example. They’re both brilliant. They both invented professions to suit their talents. They both possess a penchant for great schemes, and neither has ever found anyone to keep up with them until they crossed swords with each other.

English: Sidney Paget's drawing of Holmes and ...

English: Sidney Paget’s drawing of Holmes and Moriarty in Mortal Combat at the Edge of the Reichenbach Falls. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

4.Queen Levana – A good villain is not good.

 

 

 

 

First, allow me to qualify that statement: a good villain is not doing bad things for good reasons. If that’s the case, your character may be more of an anti-hero than an antagonist.

*spoiler alert*  In Cinder by Marissa Meyer, the antagonist, Queen Levana, embodies this concept pretty well. She tries to murder a three-year-old princess in order to steal the throne for herself, tries again when the princess is in her teens, routinely brainwashes her own subjects, and orders certain disabled infants to be murdered at birth. Not a nice woman.

 

 

A villain does what they do for reasons that they consider good, but that likely sound insane/diabolical/repulsive to the average person. Typically, their motivations revolve solely around themselves. Granted, there are exceptions to this, as with almost all aspects of writing.

 

 

5. The Weeping Angels – A good villain is frightening.

 

 

Human or monster, psychopath or sociopath, explosive or calculating, a good villain should be scary in some way, shape, or form. The worse your protagonist’s opponent is and the more your readers hate him/her, the more emotionally invested they become in seeing him/her vanquished.

The Weeping Angels are living statues from Doctor Who. In the series, they move faster than the human eye can blink and if they reach you will either send you back in time to feed off your potential energy or snap your neck, just because…well…they can. Either way, they can be terrifying. As such, when an episode features them, you’re totally invested in the plot and seeing them lose because you’d really like to be able to sleep that night. Not that you will.

And I’m not posting a picture. If you’re a Whovian, you will know why.

 

 

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Semptember Sequels!

                                              Grab button for The Book Chewers

 I just subscribed to this amazing blog, which posts weekly linkups and prompts. As you may have guessed, this week’s topic is the sequel, a creature which can be incredibly wonderful or perfectly deplorable depending on both the book and the reader. I’m told there are people who don’t like any sequels, whereas there are other folks who love them. I’m firmly in the latter group, as you can read below.

1. Best sequel you’ve ever read?

The Horse and His Boy. I know it’s a children’s book, but I’ve loved it since I was a child. Who cares if I still do? I actually end up rereading the whole Chronicles of Narnia series every couple of years, and The Horse and His Boy even more often.
2. Worst sequel you’ve ever read?

All of the Challenger and Company short stories that followed The Lost World. I’ve loved that book since I first read it, so I was hugely excited when I found out Conan Doyle had written more with those characters.

And then I read those stories…
3. Sequel that outshone the first book?

The Horse and His Boy. Again. I think the writing is tighter, the characters more likeable, and the story just generally better than the earlier books.
4. Do you often read sequels or do you read the first book and move on?

It depends on whether I liked the first book or not. If I did enjoy it, then I’ll likely read the sequel(s). If not, you couldn’t make me touch it with a thirty-yard pole.
5. What’s a sequel that really surprised you (in a good or bad way)? Why?

I’m not sure if it’s the latest one to do it or not, but The Mark of Athena really stands out. If you’ve read it, you will know why. If not…spoilers. Big, honkin’ spoilers which I cannot and will not inflict on you.
6. What’s the last sequel you read? (Briefly, what did you think of it?)

Fired Up by Mary Connealy. It was decent, but honestly the quality of her books in general has been declining in recent years. It wasn’t nearly as good as some of her previous books.
7. What are 3 sequels you’re planning to read (eventually…)?

1) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

2) United We Spy by Ally Carter

3) And whatever the next sequel to The False Prince is.

8. What’s the first sequel you see when you look at your bookshelf?

Isaac Asimov’s Robots and Empire. I haven’t actually read it yet, but it’s sitting right next to the first of the series, which I loved.
9. Best sequel cover!?

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Actually, the cover art was gorgeous for both books. Simple, but beautiful.
10. What book(s) do you think desperately need a sequel…but don’t have one?

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie comes to mind. But due to the pesky little fact that Christie is dead, I don’t see one happening any time soon. *sigh*

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Quirky Names: Yes or No?

A while back , during my blog challenge, I did a post on some of the names I’ve used for my characters. Reading through the list, the first names are innocuous enough–if a bit on the unusual side–but the tenth is…well…undeniably odd. If you’ve read the post, you’ll know that one of my characters is called Squeaky. That isn’t his real name; he was dubbed that by my protagonist because of a certain falsetto quality of his voice and the fact that she was cranky over him trying to kidnap her. However, he’s known as Squeaky throughout most of the book, with his legal name only being mentioned once in passing. Why? Because…

1. The quirkier the name, the clearer the picture.

For minor characters especially, you want to be able to devote only one or two sentences to characterization before moving on with the main characters’ story. Picking a name that says something about the character–whether it points out a physical trait(as with Squeaky), an ethnic heritage, or just plays on name connotations–is one of fastest ways of getting your point across without going into too much detail.

2. Remember me?

Some of the most famous fictional characters in the world have quirky names. Sherlock Holmes, Professor Xavier, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Xena, Spock–all quite unusual. It’s a part of what makes them memorable, and can serve to help your character stand out from the rest (not that you should rely solely on that, but still).

Conversely, if you have a crowd of oddly named characters and leave your main character with the only normal name of the bunch, that works, too. It certainly seems to have worked for Rowling.

3. Tonal Quality

The names you choose can help set the tone of your entire piece. Quirky ones, in particular. A ridiculously pretentious moniker adds to a period piece. An obscure(but not too obscure) ethnic name enhances an exotic setting. A giggle-worthy nick-name can pull together the elements of a comedy beautifully. And so on.

                                                                     However…

                                                 On the other side of the matter:

1. If your name is Kanjjdighw, you may be trying too hard.

There are limits to everything, and this is one area where the line between okay and not-okay is paper-thin. A name that’s so unusual it becomes unbelievable is definitely in the not-okay zone. It’ll annoy your editors, alienate your readers, and drive your spellcheck berserk.  As writers, we tend to get a bit obsessed with being unique, but it has to stop somewhere. It’s better to have a dull name in a great story than a name so odd no one pays attention to the story.

2. One thing is not like the others in this picture.

Sometimes a quirky name just does not fit. Trying to shoehorn one into a drama or a serious piece of historical fiction is seriously wrong, and your readers will know it.  You don’t have to go completely the other way and name everyone John Smith, but throwing fistfuls of fun, irreverent names at a sombre novella won’t do it any favors.

3. All things in moderation.

If used sparingly, quirky names can be lovely. If used too much too often, they can lose their punch and make your work sound like you were spending a bit too much time thumbing through baby name books. Realistically, not everyone in an average group of friends/acquaintances/enemies is going to have an intriguing name. A variety of names–from the outrageous to the everyday is typically your best bet–that all fit your particular story is your best bet. Besides, the personalities are the important bit, anyway.

So, where do you guys stand on quirky names? Discuss in the comments!

 

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