Wednesday, November 26, 2014
I'm in a toxic relationship. It's not easy to admit or to talk about, but there it is. I have such a bad relationship that it seeps into everything I do...and almost everything I write. And as a writer who's having this toxic relationship, it's impossible for me to write about this relationship without giving readers a skewed, distorted viewpoint. But I know that I can't fix this toxic relationship...so I've found a way to make it work with my writing. If you have a personal issue or some strange quirk, you can't ignore it. You can't write around it. All you can do is embrace it...just like I have.
The Girl with the Most Cake
Those of you who follow my colleague Annalisa Crawford may be aware that I've been engaged in a battle with my toxic relationship for years. I am winning, but not without casualties. My toxic relationship is with food. We've been having a torrid love-hate relationship since...well, perhaps since I was born. Me and food just can't love each other the way we want to, and so we find ourselves constantly at odds instead.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Food and books go well together. When you're nice and full from your Thanksgiving feast, there's nothing as sweet as curling up with a good book. They seem to encourage snacking, and sometimes a book is so good it's difficult to pull one's eyes away to bother with looking at dinner. Why not cut right to it, and add food directly into your books?
Even Characters Have to Eat
Everybody eats. It's one of the universal truths that ties all human beings together. I live in Kentucky, in the United States, and passionately love books and basketball. But when it comes to food, I'm not so different from the boy working on a farm that has no electricity in Asia -- because I eat it, too. And that brings us right back to why you want to add food to your books.
Anything that makes your characters feel more real to readers is a good thing, and there's nothing like food to do that for you. Have your character eating pizza with friends or stopping at the fast food burger joint; we've all done that, so we can all relate. Use food to help me relate to your characters, because it'll work.
- Descriptive writing
Food also allows you to be really descriptive, and that's exactly what you want your writing to be. Describe the smell, the texture, the taste. Put me right there in that moment -- in that booth, eating pizza. Put me at the dinner table, cutting into the steak.
- Introduce something new
Books allow readers to go to new places, to meet new people...to try new things. Why can't one of those things be food? It can be exciting to read about a food that I've never tasted, to learn about some new dish. I read one book that actually gave me a recipe, and I was delirious about it. I went straight into the kitchen once I got to the end of the chapter, no kidding. Use food to give your readers something new and different, and it will make your writing more memorable and enjoyable.
Food and Books
Add food to your books, and your readers will eat it up (pun intended). It brings more flavor to the page, and your fans will end up being hungry for more of your writing. I could do this all day, but now I'm the one getting hungry. So think about ways to add more food to your writing while you're eating today, and have a happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 24, 2014
The holiday season makes people feel excited for something, anxious and happy. It's a thrilling time, and it's a time when everyone's wallet is a little more open than usual. So writing about the holidays is tempting. After all, doesn't the Hallmark channel need new movies about Christmas every single year? Obviously holiday stories are in demand. So why shouldn't you write about them?
Don't worry -- I'm going to tell you why.
My Thanksgiving with YouTube
Let me start by telling you a story, since I am a storyteller. I was planning a pretty big event about three years ago, and I was so into it I was barely sleeping at night. So a few days before Thanksgiving, I found myself cruising forums at 3am. It's not as bad as it sounds -- it was a party-planning forum. And there was a link to a YouTube video, and I'm a sucker for those.
It ends up being a video diary of this Australian guy who was getting the wrong email. Apparently, he had the same name as an American and he was on the family mailing list in lieu of the correct person. This is how he became aware of an intriguing discussion about Thanksgiving. He read about deviled eggs, and turkey, and stuffing and gravy and all sorts of different back-and-forth. It was fascinating stuff, so much so that he launched a YouTube campaign in order to find this family.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
How often do you speak your more intimate thoughts aloud to an empty room? Probably not often, but writers use this little trick all the time. And frankly, it's bad writing. Don't do this, I beg of you. Many people do not have conversations with themselves aloud, so I don't know why so many authors are making their characters do it.
Don't get me wrong. I have talked to myself. Catch me in a store during the Christmas season, and you may even see me having a rather animated talk with myself. But rarely do I ever stand in the middle of a room and pour my heart out to the walls. When I'm talking to myself, it's much more "didn't I buy that last year?" and "Well, if I knew what her size was..." It's not "I always wanted Ronnie to love me. I don't understand why he doesn't. Maybe it's because I talk to myself so much." See the difference?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
So, I got all excited about writing this particular story. It completely fired my imagination; I found myself shirking other responsibilities just so I could research. Who does that? Anyway, I was thrilled about it so I started writing it. But then, something just didn't feel right. I tried forcing more chapters, but it just didn't sit well with me. Eventually, I had to put the book aside...and ended up writing an entire other novel instead. Then, just the other day, all the answers came to me out of nowhere. Knowing when to stop is a big part of being an indie author.
Hitting the Brakes
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Please, take a moment to look at the image on this post. What do you see when you look at it? You may think you're seeing a box. You may take it one step beyond, and call it a moving box. It's the holiday season. Maybe it's a gift box. Maybe you're morose, and you see someone's home when you look at it. But I'm here to tell you that this is not a box. This is the box that was used to move the very first kidney used in the very first transplant in the country. And I want to tell you the story of that box.
When you're a writer, you have to know how to take a regular box and turn it into a story. But a regular story of an ordinary moving box isn't enough. I have a question to ask you: what's your angle?
Monday, November 17, 2014
Remember when you were growing up and your parents or parental figures told you "just be yourself?" When you become an indie author, you've got to disregard all that advice. In a way, the author's career hinges upon the opinions of others.And that means the last thing you really want to do is be yourself. What other people think is very, very important...and it's going to be harder to face than you think.
What I Think...
What other people think of you as an author is important, and if you don't use a pen name then how you act in life becomes a part of the picture as well. I always advocate using pen names because it's the easiest way to keep your true self and your author persona separate. As an author, you can't get political or religious or express too many opinions. That might affect your readers. The exception is, of course, if you write political or religious books. But if you write ordinary genre fiction, you've got to keep it buttoned up during election season. It feels impossible. I know it's hard for me. But what other people think is always going to matter when you're an author. It matters even more when you're an indie.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Every writer has to create a world for their books, even if their books are based in a real time and place. You still have to create that in the reader's mind out of nothing. You may have a reader who doesn't know what living on he beach is like, and that means you have to be the one to tell them. No matter what sort of setting you're creating, do yourself a huge favor. Base it on an actual place that you can find on a map.
Pick a Real Place for Your Setting, Or Else
No matter where your book is taking place, you must give your readers some frame of reference. If you can make me understand that snow is frozen water and it's capable of falling from the sky in soft, icy little pieces, you've done your job as a writer. But you can never make me understand what glub is when it gets on your hands unless you can compare it something I do understand. If you tell me that glub has a slimy texture, I'll get that. You have to do the same sort of thing with your setting. You've got to ground it in something I understand.
You've got to pick a real place, somewhere, and use this as your foundation.