Friday, November 30, 2012

Five Top Lists of Best Author Blogs

Write an author blog? Or do you just plan to start one someday? It's a good idea to look around at some other writers' blogs--- especially the ones that stand out.

It's also essential, I think, to have a good link list (blogroll) or two in your sidebar. Having a link list just for published authors blogs you find to be outstanding is a good help for your readers--- as you will ALSO have a link list which has a lot of friendly writerish bloggers that may not be very good at blogging yet. 

To help you find some outstanding author blogs outside my own published author blog list, I'm doing some internet searching, not for top author blogs, but for top author blog lists. I'm sharing these lists with you today in the hope that you can perhaps find some new author blogs to admire, perhaps to start reading regularly. Here is the list, in no particular order:
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Author Media: Top Ten Author Blogs of 2011 The web site Author Media seems to be dedicated to helping authors build their platform, and their list is composed of ten author blogs they think have been doing that well.

Top Blog on the Author Media list is A Holy Experience by Christian author Ann Voskamp. This blog is the origin of the 'One Thousand Gift' challenge which has inspired hundreds of bloggers to participate in Thankful Thursday. Recent Post is: When You're Looking for a Christmas Miracle.  This blog does have some audio when you visit, which I find annoying, but evidently some people like it.
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Completely Novel: Author Blog Awards 2010 This is an author blog award with categories for published authors, unpublished authors and microblogs. I think this is a UK oriented list.

Winning blog in the Published Author category is Shop Girl Diaries by Emily Benet.  Current post is an author interview with Paul Bassett Davies.
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The Top Author Blogs is something to which you can add your own web site in a vain grab for new readers for your blog. While I wouldn't recommend adding your blog, this might be a place to find new author blogs you haven't seen before and make some new connections.

Number One blog on the list is that of Debi Alper, writer of thrillers. She has not been very active blogging this year, only nine posts so far, the most recent in September.
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InternetWritingJournal: The Best Author Blogs. This is more a best-known-author than a best-quality-author-blog list. It's alphabetical, so no one winner. It includes Holly Lisle, Neil Gaiman, Bruce Sterling, and Poppy Z. Brite.

An interesting blog is No rules, Just write by Christian romance author Brenda Coulter. It has a recent post about her romance book being on sale. Far more essential, however, is another post featuring an emergency brownie recipe.
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SF Signal: The 10 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Author blogs.  SF Signal is a group blog for discussing SF and Fantasy in books, TV and other media. Another alphabetical list.

Charlie's Diary by Charles Stross has in its most recent post this line:"I am still trying to stake this damn novel at the crossroads with a mouthful of garlic, but it refuses to lie down and die." So his blog got singled out in spite of being at something called antipope.org which probably means some one out there is bigoted against folks like me.
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If none of these lists links you up with any new, interesting author blogs, try doing a Google search on 'top fantasy author blogs' or 'best mystery author blogs'--- whatever genres you work in. Or search for a few of your favorite authors to see if they have blogs. Check the sidebars of any author blogs you may already read.

If you come up with any cool new author blogs, or you know of an author blog worth recommending, please drop a comment to that effect so I can check it out, too.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

What is metaphysical fiction? | Tahlia Newland, author

"Metaphysical fiction is a growing, but little-known, genre that blends stories about the inner, incorporeal, supernatural, or transcendent aspects of human experience with some form of philosophy. Readers may gain insight into, or be stimulated to reflect on, such things as the nature of existence, the mind, the soul, the psyche, psychology, the spiritual journey and so on."

If you are seeking info on genres/types of fiction, here is a useful article (see link below). Thanks to Krisi Keley of On The Soul blog for sharing. While metaphysical fiction can't serve as your publishing genre--- there are no 'metaphysical fiction' aisles in bookstores--- it may be a way to organize your thoughts about what it is that you are writing, and that can be equally important.

What is metaphysical fiction? | Tahlia Newland, author

Where have all the blog posts gone?

This blog is shrinking! There are about 200 fewer posts on this blog than there were yesterday. But don't panic! The missing blog posts are available in full at http://linalamont2.blogspot.com, also known as the Lina Lamont Fan Club.

Astute readers may remember that the Lina Lamont Fan Club is the former name of this blog. During this blog's existence under that name, mostly this was a blog about everything--- from Doctor Who to Korean soap operas to cat obituaries, both of my own cats and of celeb cats such as Socks Clinton Currie, India Bush, and Miss Kitty, cat actress from The Closer.

Lina Lamont's Write Club is a more focused blog. It's about writing--- mostly fiction writing, with side trips into poetry, and a special interest (hee, hee!) in writers with autism/Asperger Syndrome. (I also have other blogs on other topics, some of which may appear in my sidebar some day soon.)

I am in the process of deleting all my blog posts on this blog that are not relevant to the topic at hand. I'm also deleting posts related to blog hops and blog tours that I participated in as The Lina Lamont Fan Club.  As I've said, these posts are still available on the archive blog.

Probably a better way to have gone about this would have been to just abandon the Lina Lamont blog and start a fresh blog for my writing blog, but I did have the 56 followers, most of whom were blogging about writing/authorship on their own blogs.

I took the easy way out which turns out to be amazingly difficult since mine host, Blogger, does not care for brand-new blogs that post 500 new posts in one day as one does when importing a blog you've saved to your own computer. I was stuck in word verification hell for awhile being given visual word verification I couldn't read and audio WV I couldn't hear. It may be a while before I get THAT fully sorted out. But once I do, my old posts will all be available, and my new blogs will have less that is off-topic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Writer's To-Done List

If you are a disorganized writer, perhaps you've been advised, by people who just don't get it, to use a To-Do list. And you try it and every day you leave things undone, and now you have a WRITTEN RECORD of how lazy, bad and unworthy you are.

Do your negative beliefs about yourself really need that kind of reinforcement? I didn't think so.

What I've started using is what I call a To-Done list. I keep it in a steno notebook. I put the date at the top of the page. On the left column, I put the heading 'Writing'. On the right column, I put 'Life'. And then I write down not things I plan to do, but things I've actually done.

On my right column today I put down that I've watched the EWTN daily Mass, I've baked some low-carb biscuits and made today's batch of a low-carb drink.

On the left column, I put down that I've done my writing meditation and morning affirmation work, and then I've outlined the first 1/4 of my novel in progress--- 3 chapters, eleven scenes.

I've also added those scenes and chapters to my YWriter version of the novel. YWriter, in case you haven't discovered it, is FREE novel-writing software. It makes it easy to set up your scenes and chapters. Once you have that set up, you can write the third scene first and the first scene after you've finished the eighth. It also tells you the word count at the bottom of the screen so you don't get distracted checking it. The way I got distracted from the topic at hand to tell you about YWriter.

Back on topic. The advantage of the To-Done list is that you end up, at the end of each day, with a list of things you can feel positive about. Plus, when real life intervenes, you can get credit for things you did that you hadn't planned on, without being locked in regret over things you planned to do that you didn't get to, or perhaps that you are not ready to get to.

Because the fact is that rigidly following a plan you drew up that morning--- or at the beginning of the week--- often isn't the most efficient way to get things done. Maybe instead of writing that chapter one, what you do is research a few things that will make writing that chapter swifter, when you get to it.

Or perhaps you will write a first chapter when you had more research on the schedule. Or you had an emergency with a family member, dealt with it, and now don't have to worry about it for awhile.

What if you feel like you need to list things you plan to do? If it is a series of tasks for a certain writing project, you might put the list with the rest of the papers that project has generated--- without mapping out certain dates for the tasks to be done.

You might also write reminders on post-it notes for more urgent tasks, or put them on a wall calendar if they are things like deadlines imposed by others, or appointments which cannot be missed. When you accomplish these things, add them to your To-Done list.

The steno notebook I now use for my To-Done list was originally used for a more conventional To-Do list. I perhaps do the same amount of productive stuff with both systems. But with a To-Done list, I don't have a guilt-producing list of undone tasks facing me every day. Or, equally bad, a tiny list of planned tasks to make sure lazy old me can get the day's tasks done every day.

Have you ever tried to use a To-Do list? Was it a success? Did the things you DIDN'T get done bother you, or make you feel you were lazy or unworthy? Do you think a To-Done list might work for you?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Can Unpublished Writers Get Writer's Block?

 Sometimes  real  writers--- published  writers--- deny there is any such thing as writer's block. Plumbers don't get plumber's block, they argue. They just go to work in the morning when it is time to go to work. Writers need to get over themselves and go to work writing every morning the way plumbers do, and it will all work out.

Other published writers have experienced writer's block themselves. These writers sometimes say that a beginning writer, a would-be writer, an unpublished writer, cannot say 'I have writer's block'. How do we even know these people can write at all, blocked or not, they argue. It can be nothing at all like what I, a writer who is published, who writes for a living, experiences as writer's block.

But some published writers--- the ones I agree with--- believe that even inexperienced writers can have writer's block. The experienced professional writer may have a somewhat different experience of it, since he has learned many tips and tricks to move the writing forward. And the anxiety level will be greater in the writer who currently writes for a living than in a writer who has yet to make money at the trade.

My own experience is that I have been plagued since childhood with writer's block, or something like it. Sometimes it can be overcome for awhile with willpower and determination. Other times enthusiasm for some new writing trick or technique makes the dragon go away for awhile.

The most basic sign of writer's block is to sit down at the keyboard, and find the words won't come. Other people report staring at a blank screen for a long period of time. With me, I can get a few words out, then I stop, not able to think of what comes next. (It's happening right now, as I write these words.) A few more words come, then I am stuck again. I end the writing session after an hour with a word count that on better days could have been accumulated in seven minutes.

Another sign is perfectionism. I sit around and kvetch to myself about needing the exactly right word to use in this next sentence. The more important the word is to my story as a whole--- as in a word for a magical gift in a fantasy novel--- the more I give myself permission to halt until just the right word is found. I leaf through my dictionaries and my thesaurus, I look through the novels of other writers to see how they handled it, and get determined to do something very different. And though I know, intellectually, that the right way is to pick a good-enough word to use for now, and be confident something better will come to me in time, I still stay stuck.

A different sign of writer's block is when I spend a day or two or three at the keyboard, my fingers flying and my story advancing. Then I decide that something in those pages just won't do, and start over. I may end up writing two or three beginnings for the same novel. Then I decide that the whole project isn't any good--- or perhaps that it is so good I will have to read a half-dozen books for research and spend a month on outlining and planning before I begin the novel yet again. So far, what happens every time is a hopelessly stalled novel, and more negative thoughts about me-as-writer.

These bad experiences lead me to avoid the keyboard altogether for days and weeks on end. Then I tell myself I'm bad, I'm a procrastinator, I'm not a hard worker but a lazy bum, I never finish anything I start and don't do anything the right way anyhow... And then I can tell myself I don't  really  have writer's block because procrastination and writer's block are different things.

That may be so--- but it only stands to reason that if you have writer's block and have been having bad experiences at your keyboard, you will learn to avoid the source of those bad experiences, writing. In the same way a child who touches a hot stove and gets burned learns to avoid touching the stove again.

The avoidance habit can go back very far. When you wrote something in school as a child, you may have had your paper come back covered in corrections. Or, in some schools, you may have gotten the same insincere praise every child got, to build up your self-esteem. And then you discovered on your own how full of mistakes your writing was, as you learned more about spelling and grammar. 

You may also have teachers who misunderstood or disliked what you were trying to say in your writing and let you know about it. You may have been singled out for correction in front of other children and been embarrassed by it. Come to that, you may have been singled out for praise and have experienced that form of being singled out as an embarrassment, or even a humiliation. The praise involved you might not even have been able to internalize, since you may have seen it as just one more bit of the insincere teacherly praise that all children get in many schools for any work they do, regardless of the quality of that work.

The avoidance that may be a part of your writer's block may be made stronger by another factor--- distractability. If you have ADHD, or if you have an autism spectrum disorder, such as Asperger Syndrome, and executive function deficit is part of that, If you have an image of yourself as a procrastinator, distractability from such causes may also play a part, and must be dealt with.\par
Many writers find that when they are blocked as regards one kind of writing, they can still do another. If you can't write the next scene in your novel, perhaps you can write an essay about your story's world, or a character in it. You might turn your attention to writing a good post for your blog, or an article for a magazine. If nothing else, compose a status update for a social media site, or a grocery list. Every bit of writing you can do will be a help.

Both writers and psychologists have ideas about what may cause writer's block. It may be caused by overwork, or factors in your life such as financial worries, health issues, and fights with family members. It may mean that you are not yet ready to work on the particular piece of writing that you are dealing with. Perhaps you need to do a bit more pre-planning or research. Or perhaps you need to organize your writing area into a less distracting place, or make changes in your writing routine to help you concentrate and produce more.

One thing that may cause very many writers to experience a block is the almost universal negative belief, 'I'm not good enough'. This false belief may be almost paralyzing in certain areas of your life. Is writing one of them? If 'I'm not good enough' is something you have internalized, made part of your picture of the world, you may not be able to make much headway against some of your problems until you deal with it. You might deal with it by means of therapy, or by means of the power of positive thinking, or in other ways. The important thing is to start to internalize ideas such as 'I  am  good enough' and 'I  am  a talented writer' to counteract the negative beliefs that hinder you.

Have you ever experienced writer's block? How did that make you feel about yourself as a writer? How did you cope with it? If you are experiencing writer's block right now, what can you do, today, to deal with it?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Do You Deserve Success?

 "I deserve success as a writer."  Say those words to yourself. Write them down. How does that make you feel? For most writers, you will have negative thoughts popping into your head. "I'm not a very good writer." "I don't work hard enough at my writing." "I may WANT success but I don't DESERVE it."

Let's think about the sentence. What does it mean to deserve something? Perhaps the first thing that you think of is a negative example. If you drive recklessly, you deserve a traffic ticket. If you, as a child, hit your baby sister, you deserved a spanking. A bank robber deserves to go to jail.

Think about examples of deserving positive things. A worker who does the amount of work agreed upon deserves to be paid his wage. A person who does volunteer work at the local food bank deserves thanks. A mother who has tended her children lovingly when they were small and helpless deserves, when she is old and sick, to be tended by her children in turn.

But what about you? You sit down at your keyboard day by day, spending hours every week to create new worlds of fiction. Is the work you do worthless? You may feel that way most of the time. When a writer sends out his very first writing efforts to publishers, the publishers may not believe that particular work is worth rewarding with money. But is it worthless? Or is it more like the effort made in a vocational school class--- it doesn't earn a paycheck, but it leads to earning a paycheck.

No matter how weak your very first writing effort was, as you write, day after day, you will write things that people are willing to read--- that they might PAY to read. If you write a short story worthy of being included in an anthology, and people have to pay money for the anthology, do you deserve the payment you received for the story in the same way as you'd deserve the paycheck you would get if you worked for a week at Walmart? Or is the payment just charity?

I think we would agree that the payment for the short story is like the payment for a week clerking at Walmart. You put in some work, and that work deserves payment. The hard part is that the short story work is work that is uniquely YOU. People tend to have internalized negative thoughts distilled from all the critical thoughts they have heard from others over the years. If, deep inside, you think YOU are not as good as other people, you might feel that while your Walmart work is good enough to actually DESERVE a paycheck, your you-revealing writing is less so.

"I deserve success as a writer." What does 'success' mean to you? Success clerking at Walmart means that you work hard enough, and well enough, that your boss is pleased with you. He will have no problem giving you a raise as time goes on, or keeping you employed during hard times when other workers are getting laid off. You probably have little difficulty believing that you'd deserve that kind of success if you worked hard as a store clerk.

What about success as a writer? The wider world sometimes views success as a writer as being a James Patterson or a Stephen King--- hitting the best-seller lists and becoming wealthy. That's why some people who don't even like to read books sometimes declare that they want to become writers.

But a would-be writer who has done his homework--- who has looked at a few how-to-write books to see how the job of being a writer really works--- knows that expecting the career path of a James Patterson is like spending your last dollar on a lottery ticket expecting that your winnings will enable you to pay the rent and the grocery bill. NOT a wise move.

The vast-riches definition of writing success is taking things too far. Many would-be writers don't take the idea of success far enough. They don't dare anticipate more than a few publications in non-paying markets. Some even become victims of subsidy publishing scams, because in their hearts they believe they OUGHT to expect to have to pay money to get their book published rather than get paid for their book.

I suggest that your first definition of 'success' for your writing be similar to that of success as a store clerk. It's a job. Something you can pay the bills with. Think of a number of writers such as Lawrence Block or Marion Zimmer Bradley who spent many years writing genre novels to pay their bills. In time, their writing skills grew, they got recognition, and they became more than mere entry-level genre writers. Aim for that, not for the moon.

"The laborer is worthy of his hire." Every time you think of the sentence above, also think those words. You are not puffing yourself up, being proud, or asking for more than is fair when you say "I deserve success as a writer." It's just another way of saying "The laborer is worthy of his hire." Keep these thoughts in mind as you write this week. Say them to yourself, or write them down, ten times each, every day. Let them sink in.

Positive thinking:
The laborer is worthy of his hire.
A writer is a laborer.
A writer is worthy of his hire.
A writer deserves his hire.
A writer deserves success.
I am a writer.
I work hard at my writing.
I deserve success as a writer.

This is the first post in a series called 'The Inner Life of a Writer.' It will deal with issues of low self-esteem, self-doubt, self-hatred, negative mental programming, and how to overcome them. Your reactions and comments about this first post in our series are ESSENTIAL. Did you find anything in this article you could relate to? What topics might you want to see covered in this series? Have you ever had trouble believing you deserved to succeed as a writer?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nanowriter: The Quest as Plot

Nanowriter, part 1

Can one write a novel in thirty days, in a week, in three days? National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and other similar writing challenges show it's possible.

Can that novel be publishable? Well, yes. Author Michael Moorcock in the early days of his career wrote fantasy novels in three to ten days. He later gave interviews about his method, which were included in the book Michael Moorcock: Death is no Obstacle.

The plot type used by Moorcock was The Quest. This plot is found in stories about the Holy Grail, the Maltese Falcon, the great white whale, the lost treasure, and so on.

The story is about a Quest Object, which many people want. The Hero thus faces frequent challenges from the others who also seek the Quest Object.

The Quest story also includes other challenges for the Hero--- attacks from those NOT seeking the Quest Object, such as an Indian attack in a western or an attack by elves or aliens or zombies, challenges posed by the forces of nature, challenges from friends and family who don't understand why the Hero's on the Quest.

The advantage for the Nanowriter is that the Quest plot gives the writer a focus to build the story around. Every event you might think of putting into the novel, you must think--- how does this help or hinder my Hero's Quest?

Another advantage is that it rules out a lot of stories that are more complex to write, and appeal to a smaller audience. For example, the dreaded Coming of Age novel that every would-be writer who's taken a college English class feels he has to write.

Have you ever gone to a bookstore which had a Coming of Age novel section? Are there organizations of Coming of Age authors which give annual Coming of Age fiction prizes? Are there Coming of Age novel fan conventions? Well, no.

The problem of the Coming of Age novel is that the main character's goal is not concrete and measurable. No matter what your seventeen-year-old hero does, if he waits long enough and doesn't die, he will turn eighteen. And that's what makes pretty much every Coming of Age novel by a neophyte writer unpublishable, and unlikely to attract readers.

The Quest keeps the words coming--- and later, the pages turning--- because the goal is something you can see and touch, and writer and reader will know if the Quest Object has, in the end, been found.

The Quest can be adapted to nearly every genre and type of fiction. In a mystery, the Quest Object may be The Real Killer, carefully hidden among a wide range of suspects. In a romance, the Quest Object may be the Romantic Object--- the desirable man that the Romance Heroine really wants. Or, the romance novel might feature a Romance Heroine and a dreadful man trying to obtain the same Quest Object--- the deed to grandpa's ranch, say--- and falling in love on the way.

The reason the Quest is so adaptable is that in every form of fiction people actually read on purpose, the main character has a story goal. The Quest Object is a symbol of that story goal, if not the goal itself.

Some stories with the Quest as plot:

Moby Dick: Captain Ahab's quest for the White Whale.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones seeks the Ark of the Covenant, which melts Nazis.
Lord of the Rings: A reverse Quest, Frodo must destroy the One Ring he already possesses.
Gone with the Wind: Scarlett O'Hara's Quest for the love of Ashley Wilkes.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Enterprise crew seeks fallen comrade Spock

In my current NaNo, my heroine is searching for her brother and the valuable object he stole, a statue called the Blue Infant, which she must return to its owner to prevent that owner from taking her family's ranch.

How might you use a Quest plot for a current or future writing project? How might adopting a Quest plot simplify or clarify a plot idea you have? Can you name any other stories with a Quest plot? 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing: It's all about the money....

Lawyers get paid to law, plumbers get paid to plumb. But writers?  Money is a dirty word, and expecting to get paid for your work proves you are no good, at best a hack.

But this is the thing: if you work for hundreds of hours on a book and don't even think about getting paid for it, you are telling yourself your time was worth nothing. Because your writing is worth nothing. And even a hack-work novel if written correctly is worth SOMETHING.

If part of your self-identity is being a writer, one thing you have to do is write. We all know that. Talking about writing, blogging about writing, that's all well and good. But the actual writing is where your writer self-identity becomes more real than your Klingon warrior identity.

But the other part of making the writer self-identity real is getting paid for your work. That may make you uncomfortable. But if you knew a guy who said he was a lawyer, and he never once had gotten paid for doing any lawyer work but got his income working at Kmart, would you take him seriously as a lawyer?  Getting paid--- or at least, doing writing for which you can anticipate being paid--- tells you that your writer identity has a basis in the real world.

So, starting today, resolve this: you are a writer. Your writing time is working time. Your writing is worth something in a dollars-and-cents sense. If you are a beginning writer, perhaps the worth of your current WIP will prove to be as basic training for a future work that is salable. But perhaps not. Write every word as a professional writer writing to put a bit of money in the bank, not as a hobbyist who can get away with any old thing so long as it feels good, or a dreamer who wants every word to drip literary quality and non-commercialism.

In other words, take yourself and your writing seriously.


Blog notes: I was going to discontinue this blog in favor of my new blog Let's Kill Hitler, but it looks like I'm not. That blog is going to be about science fiction, fantasy and western books and TV shows. (Western? It's my new obsession. I'm working on a Western/zombie novel.) This blog is about writing. Another blog is going to be about politics, religion, prolife, and gay chaste stuff. I need a new name for that one and am open to suggestions.

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