Thursday, December 26, 2019

Nano days and Nano nights

Last month I finished another Nano. It was the second year I had won. Nano stands for Nanowrimo. It, like most things, started small, but has grown to hundreds of thousands of participants all over the world. 

In case you haven't heard of Nanowrimo, it is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. The basic idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. If you want to succeed, there is no editing, no stressing over continuity--you just let the words flow and flow.

It has always been in November, which, when I was working full time, was not convenient. Too much going on in the schools where I worked and in my family. I was certainly getting too old to stay up past midnight any more. Still, I made a valiant effort. I did 48,000 words five years ago. 

I think the other problem is that I am what is called a "pantser." I have story ideas, but they develop as I write. I have sometimes said that the characters take charge and demand that the story be written their way. That gets me in trouble sometimes. For the life of me, I have never been able to develop and stick to an outline. A page of notes is the best I have done. 

I did some practicing with something called Camp Nano, which are smaller scale Nano's. These usually take place in the spring and summer, where the participant can sign up and declare their own goals. A much less formal writing process. I did several of those, cumulatively completing a sci fi novel. My goal was normally 20,000 or 25,000 words in the month. Several writing friends and I banded together in our own "campgrounds" and encouraged each other.  I completed these easily.

In recent years Nano has done something I couldn't do for myself--motivation to write a lot. Last year I wrote all 50,000 words on one novel. This year I didn't have one story cooking--I had several. So my 50,000 words were cumulative. I finished a novelette for one purpose, I also finished a fan-fiction that I had almost finished a decade ago (a lost story!!), and the beginning of a sequel to last year's Nano. 

Depending on my mood, I worked on one or the other and got my 50,000 words by November 26th. I kept writing through the end of the month. It was a good feeling. Now all I need to do is figure out the motivation for the rest of the year!! 

First two pictures from Nanowrimo. Last picture from Pixabay. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

An Ode to Fan Fiction Writers

I will admit it—I am a fan-fiction writer. Granted, most of my fan-fiction was written at least a decade or two ago.

For the uninitiated, fan-fiction is where you take a character from a movie, book, or television show and write new stories about them. If you enjoyed Star Wars, but felt something was missing, there are probably tons of stories to fill in the spaces. Same with popular book characters, old and new TV shows, and movies.

Still, when I have admitted my FF affiliation some people, especially in the writing community, I get looks like I just said “I am an alcoholic serial killer.” Why is there such a stigma about writing fan-fiction?

I venture a few theories. First, fan-fiction writers are equated to wannbe writers. Can’t write a grammatical sentence to save them, scads of passive verbs, adverbs, stuff like that. Writing too painful to plow through. Perhaps some is, but consider that continued writing usually leads to better writing. We learn as we practice. I read some of my early stuff and thought, Eeyew. But I read later stories and while I still see mistakes, I see progress.

Second, many fan-fiction writers use something called H/C- or hurt/comfort. The heroes have gobs of stuff thrown at them, mainly injuries, and vicariously the author pulls them through, usually through the other characters. I will admit I have done a great deal of that myself. After rereading most of my stuff as I put it on another site, I know I would tone it down if I was inclined to edit again. However, I don't have time to do that with fan-fiction. I hope readers see beyond the h/c and discover improvement in writing, dialogue, and characterization.

Another distinction of ff is that the point of view jumps from one character to another. It took a while for me to ease out of that. My latest book only had two points of view, well separated by chapters.

Third, there is the thought that fan-fiction writers are lazy, in that they are simply taking established characters in established settings and beating up on them. I don’t buy that. Yes, I wrote about established characters, and in their established settings; Zorro in Spanish California, Admiral Nelson on his submarine, Buck Rogers in space. (Well, most of the time, anyway.).

However, I have done some heavy duty research because I wanted to have geographical and historical details right. I once wrote the equivalent of a trilogy (160,000+ words). In it I had the hero shanghaied from his early 1800’s setting and carried off to China. I had books about Chinese history and culture, Chinese language, British East Indiamen (those were cargo ships), The Sandwich Islands, Chinese medicine, and so forth. I had to change parts of the plot at times because of the historical facts I found. To this day, I find pride in this fan-fiction, just as I feel satisfaction in the dialogues between a reluctant Captain Crane and a symbiotic alien who just happens to be female and pregnant, or the description in the “seeing” Buck Rogers had to undergo to be adopted into a clan of bird people.

Which comes to another conclusion that detractors of fan-fiction make. If one is going to that much trouble to write something, why not write something they can publish and thereby make money. There are some reasons for that, too. Primarily, FF writers write for the sheer enjoyment of writing. It is sometimes a diversion as well as a pleasure—a hobby like people who draw or garden. They write for their readers. They are not in it to get rich. (Believe me, most mainstream authors aren’t getting rich either!!)

I am grateful for all the fan-fiction I wrote. It helped me with dialogue, with plot continuity, with descriptions. I learned through creating original characters how to make them real; people that readers empathize. By taking my FF characters out of their original settings I learned how to world-build. I also learned how to edit.

So while I am working to become a successful ‘mainstream’ author, I will never disown what got me on this wonderful writing path. (BTW Many mainstream authors started out as FF writers.) Whatever my background--I am an author!!

(Logo: thanks to Archive of Our Own, where most of my fan-fiction resides. Other stories are found on Seaview Stories, a private site.) 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Here I am, late as usual, working to post something before people think I have departed this world. I do have one excuse--I am preparing to attend Oklahoma's second annual Book Festival near downtown Oklahoma City. As an author, not a spectator! When I got the email to be a part of the OK Book Festival, some months ago, I was elated--I still am. When you write something that satisfies you, you hope it also satisfies others, not just your family. When you are invited to an event that many people attend that makes it feel like what you are doing is legitimate.

Anyway, while this is going on, I have been working on other projects. Contests, which I like for more than possible recognition, it gives me the opportunity to let others take a fresh look at my work and offer suggestions on how to make it better.

Another is taking old stories from my fan-fiction days, and transferring them to a new site. (Ask me, if you are curious, about what the heck a published author did before she was published.) Only problem with doing a quick transfer is that I am sort of OCD about editing. I see where these old stories need some editing. (I call it the "What was I thinking?" syndrome).

Something else that came my way was the invitation to write a story for one of the fandoms I used to write for. Say what? Someone wants a story about an old icon. I used to dream of being paid to write about characters that I had loved from when I was growing up. Now I have to think of a plot for a character that I haven't written a story about in fifteen years! I can't help but wonder if that is how people like Kevin Anderson got started writing Star Wars books. (No it's not Star Wars and no, not figuring on that end result either.)

I guess the whole point I am making is that I am a writer, an author, and there are many ways to fulfill a writing dream. I often told my students that it didn't matter what they wrote about, they just needed to put the pencil to the paper and write. If you want to edit, then great! If, occasionally, you want to toss it in the trash and write something else, that's fine, too. (I said occasionally; don't be too hard on yourself.) Do not ever feel that you can't write anything. Everyone can write something, whether it be a journal, a letter, a story. And if you keep writing, it becomes better.

With that said, I want to write something to someone who believed in me, who died recently....

Dear Sue (Susan Liedl Schuck),
I want to thank you for believing in me. Several people believed in me through the years, my husband, my computer teacher, my dear friend who did a cracker-jack job of editing for me, but you sat me down and said that even though fiction books about a California mission weren't what publishers were taking at the time, you wanted it in print. You loved how it put you in a time that has been overly romanticized or ostracized. Since you were a native Californian and retired teacher, you read it and made corrections on the history and the nuances of Catholic customs of the time. During that time, there was no provision for self-publishing unless you went with Tate or XLibris, or the like. We did the research and found a reputable publisher, then you paid them the fees. My first book was in print and you asked for several copies to push out in California. You put me up in your house so I could pitch the book to the Catholic dioceses out there. Fictional books about California missions are still not popular, but you gave me the push to continue writing. I will always be grateful for that. God bless you and everyone else who loves and supports writers, be they readers, critiquers, backers, or other writers. It's been a wonderful journey.

  Thank you, Sue, for making this possible.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Writing, Breathing, Living

 Multiple Choice Blog!
 Have Fun!

1. What makes someone write?
        a. Your fifth grade English teacher
        b. Your mom wanting you to write a thank you letter to grandma
        c. Money
        d. None of the above

2. When do authors begin writing?
       a. When their teacher tells them to write about what they did during the summer
       b. When they get their first journal
       c. When they get a new computer
       d. All or none of the above

3. What do writers write about?
       a. How birds fly
       b. Superheroes
       c. Their first kiss
       d. All or none of the above

4. How do writers/authors write?
       a. On a recliner
       b. In bed
       c. At a computer table
       d. All of the above

5. What do authors look like?
      a. Judy Schachner
      b. Rick Riordan
      c. J.R.R. Tolkien




1. d. none of the above
Nothing makes an author write. Sure you can get an assignment that you have to write, but real writing comes from the heart. It's something that whispers 'write me.' I think there are probably millions of reasons people write, because there are millions of writers, including you. BTW never get into writing because you want to make money. It's rare. Get into writing because you love to write!

2. d. all or none of the above
Some writers do begin their writing when they have had to do an assignment they really enjoyed. Some began with a journal.
These days it could be when you have received your first computer. I wrote a lot of stuff in notebooks, but when I got my first used desktop, my writing world exploded into opportunity. It was like Aladdin's magic carpet-taking me to so many places.

3. d. all or none of the above.
Writers write about the things they know, they love, again, the things that whisper 'tell about me!' I met an amazing author of non-fiction books who studies her subjects, writes about poop or roadkill with equal passion, and then takes her passion to schools to help kids learn to love science.
I began writing stories about characters I saw on television. I wanted to show more than what was on television screen. I wanted these fan-fiction characters to feel real to others. I loved writing!  Later on, I wanted my original characters to do the same.

4. d all of the above.
Doesn't matter where you write--Write!!
I wrote a novel while riding a stationary bike at the gym. It took me a year.

5. d
Look in a mirror. An author looks like you! Think about what you like, what is 'whispering' in your heart and mind! And then WRITE...  in a notebook, on your computer, on a napkin. Write!!

PS. I granted my fan-fiction characters (Zorro, Buck Rogers, Capt. Crane, others) their wishes for their stories to be told for over ten years. It was exhilarating seeing what they would do next. As I wrote, I got inside their heads, saw their worlds in my mind and then on my computer. I left my sometimes drab existence of the real world as I imagined theirs. I did it because I loved it!
You have to love writing. Love putting down words, ideas, and new places.

And there is something else about writing.... Reading. Good writers read a lot.

"The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order," says Stephen King. (Think about it!)