Friday, 28 May 2010

Guest Post: Merry Muhsman - Why I Write Fantasy?

Why I write fantasy?

First, I want to thank Dolly for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I met Dolly in Margie Lawson’s Empowering Character Emotions Course in March.

Second, my topic today is why I write . . . Fantasy. My love for fantasy stories runs as deep as the lake that swallowed Excalibur. Perhaps, not as colorful as my beloved King Arthur stories, but still a tale nonetheless.

Once upon a time

I grew up on farm in Nebraska where we had one television; it had no remote and four channels. My nearest neighbor was about a mile away, and my older sister thought of me as a nuisance. (She would make me lie down in the back seat while she cruised with her friends around town. I in turn was bribed with a McDonald’s plain hamburger.) My best friend at home was my German Shepherd Duke. Duke was a great listener, never interrupted me and allowed me to speak my mind, craft my stories and imagine myself in a world of knights, dragons and magic.

Life had its limitations

My life could be complicated by limitations. On Saturdays, I got one hour of TV time in the morning (and somehow fit in chores, my mother was articulate with her lists and even drew pictures to show dusting down steps).  Since Saturday was the best day for cartoons, my choices lent themselves to Thundarr the Barbarian and Spider-man and His Amazing Friends. I still am a huge fan of Stan Lee.

Sunday became a time to either read or sit outside and write. No TV. So I sat underneath an old oak tree and composed my story by hand. I still have that notebook. My mother read a novel, while I wrote my story. To this day, she is still my editor. My first fantasy story was eventually typed on a real typewriter, complete with white out tape. A fancy typewriter!

My love for Fantasy was born in Camelot

I have always had a love for King Arthur and Avalon. I fell in love with Mary Stewart and Marion Zimmer Bradley. (Current favorites are Robin Hobb, Jennifer Roberson, Stephen Lawhead, Mercedes Lackey, Morgan Llywelyn and L. Jagi Lamplighter.) They transported me away from my boring life of drinking straight from the garden hose, walking barefoot across the gravel and climbing trees down by the creek. I fell in love with a time that broke all the rules. When I was a child, fantasy had no bounds, no rules, no limits. I have read a few books that tell me that’s not entirely true, but being able to create your own world, your own rules and your own heroes and villains, that was extraordinary. Still is.

At one of my book signings for Peddler’s Trials, a woman came up to me, as her son literally salivated all over my book with excitement. I could tell she was going to be a tough sell for her older daughter’s arms were full of textbooks. They did not come to buy my book, but the son couldn’t tear his eyes off the page and was determined to leave with something for himself. The mother looked at me with dark eyes beneath perfectly plucked brows and asked, “Why do you write fantasy?” I looked at her son and smiled. “When I started, I did it for me. Now, I do it for him.”

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Unstructured Approach to Structuring

Editing - how I love it, and hate it, and feel everything in between for it. The editing for main wip is going...on some days I might say it's going well, but on other days, like today, it's just going.

However that is not a deterrent by any means because every weakness or every problem found now is something that I won't have to deal with later, and certainly not something that an agent or a publisher will ever get to see. So I am okay with finding faults. Faults are fixable.

My key concern is structure. Overall the structure is solid - but the problem is that there are several places in the second half of the book where I need to add new scenes. I am not exactly sure what scenes, and I am not exactly sure where, but I know that some additional requirement is needed, and I also know that some scenes could use other scenes in betwee them to make the transition smoother.

Initially I was going chapter by chapter. For first nine chapters it was okay, because they don't need anything added, and they don't need any structural changes. (I hope). Chapter 10 was so-so, but it was because of Chapter 11 that Chapter 10 came under the whole kaboom of change.

So there I was, looking at Chapter 11, staring and staring, and wondering what should go where, and it all seemed just so hopeless, and annoying, because I just wanted to do the damn edit, not wonder about what I should do. Then I looked at Chapter 10 and Chapter 12, because they had to link with Chapter 11, and while I was at it, I looked at Chapter 13 too. Then just for the convinience of looking at it easily, I pasted it all in one document, and started playing with it. And selecting things that I definitely wanted to keep (only looking at plot points here, not necessarily exact words). It was still quite frustrating not knowing what to add.

So just for the hell of it, I copied remaining chapters in a second document, and as I was doing it, the light bulb went off. This unstructured approach is the way to move forward, at least for now.

What I have done now is to combine both documents which is about 40000 words. I am going through it in completely unstructure manner, at random, selecting what I definitely want to keep, editing what catches my eye, and making note where new scenes could be inserted. While usually more orderly method is more efficient, I feel that in this instance, because I need to be aware of the whole picture rather than one scene, it is better to treat the whole second half as one, because if I add a new scene somewhere, it won't just affect the scene after it, but perhaps another scene which is no where around it. This approach is also making the editing slightly more fun and not nearly as frustrating because I am not endlessly staring at one screen, not knowing how to move.

This has also taught me an important lesson: there is no such thing as edit-proof. This WIP was written with an outine, and there are actually no plot holes, and yet I feel the need to add the new material because it will make the book stronger. It's the kind of stuff that one can't plan for. So the control freak in me just have to work with the chaos.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Guest Post: Elana Johnson - Why I Write YA?

Why YA?

Okay, so Dolly asked me to expound on why I write YA. She pretty much let me do and say anything I want, so I hope you’re strapped in. Ha!

For me, I never dabbled in other stuff. I sat down to write, and all this emotion came pouring out. I was going through something devastating at the time, and writing helped those toxic feelings bleed out.

And when I went back to read what I wrote, I’d transferred my feelings to the most emotional creature on the planet: a teenage girl.

Ah, teen angst. Where would we be without it?

And that’s why I write YA. It just happened. And I’ve never doubted it or questioned if I should consider writing something else. I’m comfortable spilling my potentially screwed up emotions into my characters.

It’s a release for me, one I crave. And I don’t think it would work as well in an adult character or a pre-teen. Oh no. I’m all about the fifteen to seventeen crowd. They’re asking so many questions at that time. Feeling so much—about themselves, their friends, their girl/boyfriends.

And besides, I can do all sorts of things in my YA novels that I never did as a teen. I wasn’t what you would call rebellious, like not even at all. But I can live vicariously through my books, right?

Yeah, that’s what I’m going for.

What do you think? Have you tried writing YA? Is there really a more emotional creature than the teenage girl? Why do you write YA? Why don’t you? 

Check out Elana's hang-outs here

Official Website:

Elana's Blog: Blog - Helping Writers Become Authors:

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Check out the sidebar to the right. My new WIP list has been added, after a review of my projects. There are some that would never see the light of day. There are others which are mere seeds - but these projects listed to the right are the ones I intend to finish.

Historical Romance - AC - is an exception. The project itself is shelved permanently, however it is still listed there because there are considerable parts of it that I intend to revamp and use for something else. I like a lot of things about it - I just no longer intend to write category romance novels.

Another important development is that I started writing a new book. This is an urban fantasy. For a while now, I have been itching to start writing a new story, but I was working on several outlines; other older projects need changes or rewriting which I didn't want to do just yet while I am focused on editing NaNo 2009 WIP. So I was hoping to leave off the writing until I had the perfect outline.

Well, I don't have a perfect outline. But I decided it didn't matter. I had the itch to write, and so I must. I do have a sort of outline, so it's not a totally plan-less process. I am also experimenting with editing as I write thing. I write, and the next day, I review what I wrote the day before, edit if I feel the need to, and then write some more. It is certainly slower than just writing the draft, but it is also cleaner. I am also able to do little plot fixes as I go. But I only review previous day's work, not the whole draft. And the key is to keep moving forward, and not to get bogged down by editing. I am barely starting with this project, so I am still testing the waters.

One thing I have realised though is that there is no such thing as a set process. At least not for me. Each book is different. And with each book, I can take what I have learned from previous experience and then do what my instincts tell me to, and have faith that it will work out in the end.

I haven't set firm goals for the new WIP except to write regularly, even if it's just few hundred words. Finish NaNo 2009 WIP and making it submission worthy this year is still the main goal. The new writing is to keep my writing fingers flexed, and to let my poor characters have their say, because they have been dying to do so.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Guest Post: Erica Chapman - Why I Write YA?

Hi Everyone!

Big thanks to Dolly for inviting me to “share time” with all of you ;o) I’ve enjoyed the other posts in this series and can’t wait to see who’s next!

In the beginning…

I didn’t start out writing YA and most certainly not paranormal. In fact, I started with poetry. I’m going to get all “honest and sharey” here for a moment. The death of my dad was a huge catalyst for me to write. I wrote my first poem at sixteen after I found out he committed suicide. His death uprooted deeply hidden emotions that could only manifest on the white paper of my kitten journal. It was quite therapeutic, and I owe a lot to my early writing.

“ahh back to snarky, sarcastic me”

What came next was only natural…

I wrote poetry about boys! Once in a while I threw in something about life… blah blah. But boys were more interesting. Those poems are under lock and key, and will stay that way FOREVER. Ha.

So on came adulthood *sigh* I’m fighting it with all I got.

But. I have a confession. I’m a bit jaded. *gasp* I know. Hard to believe, but alas, I’m an adult and therefore have racked up some cynicism and intolerance.

You know what pulled me out of my humdrum life?

Harry Potter.

Yes. Harry Potter got me reading again after a long draught, after thinking life was just one boring political argument after another. I needed more. So thus began my love for YA (yes, I know Harry is MG, but it’s like my gateway book) *ahem* JK Rowling is brilliant. I realize I didn’t mention her yet, but she’s kind of like Madonna, when you say, “Like a Prayer” you know who sings it, right?

So after HP, I devoured the Twilight series in one week, Hunger Games series (well the 2 that are out) in 4 days, and lots of others. I loved reading about vampires/werewolves/ghosts. Put paranormal into a YA book and I’m sold. (yes, I also know that Hunger Games isn’t paranormal)It’s the first loves, complications, the angst that drew me in. You know, the stuff I wrote about as a teen. I immediately formed my own ideas and realized… I wanted to write my own story.

I began with a story that ended up not even being YA, in fact, it was a mystery. I moved on to an Adult Paranormal story about the Devil and the snatchers that took bodies from Earth (you know light stuff like that). But, something was missing. So. During NaNoWriMo, I decided I would try my hand at YA Paranormal. I fell in love. There’s something about re-living those first moments, about experiencing things as if it were my first time but with a paranormal twist, that fits me.

With YA there’s a great opportunity to express something to an audience I don’t normally socialize with. (not that I wouldn’t, just don’t come across any teens).

Writing YA is amazing. The voice has to be authentic; you have to make sure not to instill your own beliefs and jadedness into the words. It’s hard. I’ll admit it. I’ve had to go back and edit my cynical statements, but there’s something really rewarding about living as a teen again.


Would I ever consider going back in time and re-living my teen years if someone magically built a super-awesome time machine with a flux capacitor?

Not if you paid me a trazillion dollars.

Would you?

Come over and say “what’s up!” –
website -

Thanks ;o)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Have I Found My Voice?

No doubt the most common answer to this would be: it's like asking if you have been in love. If you have, you know it, and if you haven't, it's highly unlikely you would know what it really feels like.

I hope there is a better answer out there about writer's voice. I have wondered about this before, and I wonder about it now because I have thought about it from a different perspective.

There have been moments in my writing when I look at what I have written and I say: it's so me. Until now, I thought that was my voice shining through. Yes, it is. But in those instances, it was when the situation or characters demand a response that I would give. That voice was shining because it was more intune with how I act/speak/think in life.

But what about when I am writing through characters who are nothing like me, or the situations I have never been in? The voice of those characters is not like me. It's true to them, as it should be. But, how do I glimpse whether my writer's voice is in there somewhere?

How do I know? How do I judge? Perhaps, I should just be patient and trust that one day I will just know. Perhaps, I will know...but until then I can't help but wonder if there is a way to know it for sure.

Have you found your writer's voice? How do you define it? How do you know it's there when your characters say or think things you never would?

Friday, 7 May 2010

Guest Post: Karen Strong - Why I Write YA?

The written word has always been sacred to me. My books are valued gems and I hold other writers in great esteem. But when it comes to my own writing, I’m compelled to write Young Adult (YA).

Why do I write for this audience? First, let me tell you three reasons I don’t write YA:

1. I Want to Teach a Lesson. 
Teens don’t want to hear my beliefs. They want to live through a character and see what type of decisions (right or wrong) she makes. It’s about the storytelling not the morals.

2. I Want to Be in a Hot Market. 
By the time I finish what’s hot now that trend may be ice cold. I write what I love and what I would like to read. Novels created with a writer’s passion always find a place.

3. I Want to Write Something Easy. 
YA isn’t all fluff and rainbows. Endless parties and kissing scenes. It can be savvy, gripping and even – gasp – literary. Writers know that the craft is hard regardless of the audience. Period.

Some other people may write YA for those reasons. But not me. These are three reasons I write YA:

1. I Love the Characters. 
This period of life is full of emotional landscape with many decisions and revelations. It’s the start of life detached from your family and your origin. It’s the start of unveiling the world beyond what you currently know and finding your place in it. I love writing about characters on the brink.

2. I Love the Diversity. 
You can write on any subject for YA. Romance, Horror, Science Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, or a unique mix. Just browsing the bookshelves can reveal an eclectic mix of novels in one place. I love as a writer that I can explore different genres if I wish.

3. I Love the Audience. 
Most of all, young adults are a passionate group of readers. I love the connection that they feel with the novels and hearing their own stories. For me as a writer, it doesn’t get any better than this.

So that’s why I write for YA. I enjoy other types of books, but YA is where my writer heart lives.

Thanks so much Dolly for inviting me to be a part of your series.

You can visit me at my blog, Musings of a Novelista and on Twitter. I love meeting other kindred writing spirits!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Good Actor + Good Director = Good Writer

A good friend of mine, Nofretiri, asked if I would post my views on this question: Does a good writer have to be a good actor to convey all the emotions? And a director, too, for arranging the scenes well?

A short answer is, yes. But of course things are never that simple. There are plenty of rubbish actors that hog our televisions, so perhaps for the first question, more accurate ting would be to say that we have to be able to empathize, and tap into emotions that we have experienced at some point, and apply them to our writing. 

Before you protest that you can't possibly feel what a psychopath might kill murdering his victims - yes, you can. At some point in your life, you have felt all emotions to various degrees. Not necessarily desire to literally kill someone (I hope), but you must have been so angry that it just slips out "I want to kill him/her". Or you are so angry, you do something stupid, or you rage and rant, or you break things. Whatever floats your boat. What we can do is use those emotions - exaggerate them to fit our situation. A normal, angry person just want to slam the door against the wall (guilty!!), a psychopath might want to slam someone's head against the wall.  So you transfer your feelings of slamming the door, to slamming someone's head when you are writing from that psychopath's POV. I don't know about you - but when I slam doors, I feel much better. It releases the anger. So what if that's how a murderer feels when he kills someone?

What if you have never had a child, but you want to write about the joy of having a child or the pain of losing one? Again, use what you have. Perhaps you have lost someone else (even if not by death, by some other means), you exaggerate that feeling, you imagine how much worse it might feel if it's your child, someone you have given birth to, someone who was dependent on you for their well-being. And then you portray those emotions in the scene.

Method acting - putting yourself into character's shoes - is a famous method employed by actors. Writers of course have to be able to do that with more than one character.

This is where the Director comes in. Your creative side is your cast of actors - you use them to get into different characters' head. But we all know actors want the limelight, so without the director to keep them in line, and to make them follow the story, we wouldn't have a book - but rather a bunch of actors showing off. 

The Director is your logical side, the one you use the most when you are editing. The actors might revise their lines, but the director has the final say whether it's good enough or not. It is the skill you need to be able to have a coherent story that other people - those who can't see the vision in your mind - will understand, and be able to see your vision. The actors will work hard here to make the readers feel the emotions they are supposed to feel. The actors focus on their own part, which is important, but the director takes of the bigger picture. 

What do you think? Does acting and directing work for you?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

44 Day Challenge - Success

My 44 Day Challenge for one pass of editing is complete. Actually, I finished it on 30th of April but since I was doing a guest post, this one is delayed a little.

Editing is a strange thing for me - sometimes I love it, sometimes I get bored that I have to do it, and sometimes I get annoyed that it's not showing the scene as I want it to. But coming back to love it part - there were scenes that I read, and I was so surprised that they were there, because I just loved them. Scenes that did not need changes beyond polishing or spelling errors. Of course those are few, compared to tons of others that need major changes.

Overall, the challenge was success. But, the overall book yet is not at the state I would have liked after that. It is essentially due to the major new plot thread I added towards the end of the book. Because that needs a lot of new scenes, and of course story line woven through already written scenes, it is A LOT of work, and HIGH word count. 

Just to give you an example,  the first draft was 81539 words. Currently, my draft is 87000+, and I am not done adding new scenes. This is also while constantly cutting out excess words. So I expect the whole draft to go over 90K when all the scenes are there, and I still need to add descriptions. But then editing afterwards should trim it down again. 

I have started second pass of editing. I am trying to do a quick one with this, to go through, fix what I see, and most importantly work with the new scenes in making a seamless draft. Probably after that I will do another detailed editing. So yes, a lot of work. But the best part is when I find scenes that I love, and then I know that if I stick to editing, I can make the whole book like that. So that's pushing me on.