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Getting Paid to Write

My sister-in-law recently told me that Mozart never wrote anything he didn’t get paid to write. I found this depressing; he didn’t compose for the pure creative release it provided? She found it inspiring; he knew that his work was good enough that he should be paid for it. He also knew that he didn’t want to be a “starving artist.” If he was going to create, he was going to find a way to support himself doing it.

I’ve recently started writing articles for textbroker.com. So far I’ve made $17. I’ve written articles about improving your gas mileage, using a lesson-plan template, using a pet-transport service, 3 new video games, and finding oil rights in Oklahoma. I’m currently working on an article about synthetic roofing materials. Woot.

So the question is, is it worth it? I can’t get a job outside the home (not that I want one!) because my husband works too much, but I need to help make some extra money somehow. Writing is the only talent I have, so I’ve found a way to make some money doing it. But in so doing, I use my spare time writing about anonymous .coms and not working on my novel(s). Of course, blogging also takes from my writing time, and I don’t even make $0.014 per word for it.

I just always envisioned myself making money from my writing through major publication. Like, Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson publication. You know, if you’re going to dream, dream big. I never dreamed of doing black-hat SEO work for pennies an hour. The problem is, even major publishing authors need varied revenue streams. I just don’t want this to be it for me.

For now, I’m going to keep making what little I can to contribute toward the bills. But I have to be careful not to let it rob me of my committment to be published, and I don’t mean just on houstonroofingsynthetics.com.

I have recently submitted a story to flashfictiononline.com, and I’m prepping a story to submit to Writers of the Future. I’m now ready to power through my already outlined YA novel, and maybe I can have it ready to do something with by next LTUE. I guess now I have to get ready to start collecting rejection slips. Can’t wait.

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Hello.

*crickets chirping*

After three years of my blog being dark, I found two comments awaiting moderation. I find this hilarious because I think I had maybe 2 readers ever to begin with, and these comments were from strangers. How are people finding this blog? I have no idea.

Anyway, I think it’s time to start it up again. I’m writing more again, so I guess it’s time to start writing about writing again.

My most exciting current project is a story I just finished and plan to submit to Writer’s of the Future. I’ve finally written an ending that satisfies me, and now I need to polish the heck out of it.

In other news, why hasn’t Twitter gone away? I don’t know how to use it, and I therefore don’t like it. Also, what the heck is Tumblr? Isn’t that just another blog site?

What are you writing?

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Creator’s Block

“They say you have to push on through.”

“Who says that?”

“You know. Whoever it is that says  all those things.”

“Well screw them. I’m done.”

“You can’t just be done. Too many people are counting on you.”

“Pff. I’m sure.”

“They are! Millions wait with baited breath to see what you will Create next.”

“Well I doubt they’ll like it very much. I’m thinking of eating Aunt Millie’s bran muffins. And we all know where that leads.”

“Ok, gross. Seriously, let’s get going here. What do you see on the horizon for Vez Alman?”

“The beach.”

“Alright! What about the beach?”

“Dunno. Just gonna play it like I see it.”

“Will this be an island? A new coast? Or just a sandy area on an existing coast?”

“None of the above. I’m going to…get this… go to an already existent beach, and then…wait for it…lay down!”

“Uh huh. Vez, come on, now. You can’t be remotely serious. You’ve been the galaxy’s top Creator for decades now. You can’t just stop because of one little mishap.”

“I’d hardly call an entire planet destroyed ‘a little mishap.’ People died. Lots of them. More than I could ever Create.”

“But the volcano was a complete success! In fact, I think it was the most successful super-volcano in history.”

“Spare me, Lars. I’m not Creating anything else. I’m done. Let someone else pick up the craft. I don’t want it anymore.”

“Well, let’s see. The possibility of that happening is…carry the three…NONE! Now quit messing around, dust yourself off, and Create something already!”

“Dust myself off?”

“Ok, you messed up. But people still love you.”

“Dust myself off…”

“Alright, now. I saw a request the other day for a new lake in Arbenis. It’s so dry there, you know. Folks could really use a nice lake.”

“Lakes are a little small time for the great Vez Alman. I’m thinking of really dusting myself off.”

“Ummm, what is that?”

“What? Oh, just a little storm cloud. Nothing to worry about.”

“Don’t you need to make the hole for the lake before you fill it with water?”

“You telling me how to Create?”

“And…shouldn’t we be in Arbenis before…Vez? Hold on now…”

“More wind, I think.”

“Alright. I get it. I’ll try back later…maybe next week. Or next month.”

“What? This is what you wanted, isn’t it? This will be the greatest storm Symanth has ever seen!”

“In your living room? I’m going. Goodbye.”

“I don’t think so. I think you’d like to see this Creation.”

“Hey! How are you…? Release me!”

“What was it you said? People still love me?”

“Come on now. You can bounce back. You can beat this. Please, just don’t…please Vez…don’t…”

“We’ll see if they still love me tomorrow.”

Self critique: it’s not bad. It’s not great. But not bad. But not great. (Anyone remember that Kmart commercial?)

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So the prompt is: write a story with 2 characters and dialogue only. Here’s mine:

Accepted

By Miranda Mann

“Helen.”

“Error.”

“Renee.”

“Denied.”

“Ruth.”

“Accepted. Please continue.”

“Lily.”

“No.”

“Alsie.”

“Another error.”

“Delara.”

“Accepted. Please continue.”

“Really? Why would it accept Delara but reject Lily?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“But I don’t like Delara.”

“Then you really shouldn’t have said it. Please continue. Boys next.”

“Do you think…do you think I could see them?”

“I hardly see a point in that.”

“Curiosity, I guess.”

“There’s not much to see. We’re on this stack, fifth petri dish down.”

“How many cells are they?”

“Each is only 128 cells. We insert the identification DNA now so it will replicate throughout the body. This way no one can impersonate a Free Person.”

“Right.”

“Please continue.”

“Derek.”

“Denied.”

“Gavin.”

“No.”

“Sean.”

“Accepted. Please continue.”

“I don’t know why I even need to be here. Can’t the algorithm just pick a name for me? It rejects all the names I like anyway.”

“Pick for you? What kind of mother’s touch would that be? Besides, it violates your rights.”

“Does it? Then why can’t I have any name I like?”

“That really isn’t up to me. I think it has to do with other blastulas being named at the same time. Please continue.”

“Rishab.”

“Accepted. Please continue.”

“Hmmm. Rishab. I assumed it would reject that one. I need to be more careful.”

“As I said before.”

“I sometimes feel like this isn’t…natural.”

“That’s an acceptable feeling. But we can’t have the algorithm choosing for you. Please continue.”

“No, I mean this whole thing. I heard women used to grow one child at a time. I heard it was magical.”

“False. Women were once constrained to producing between one and eight offspring at a time, but it was never magical. The children often died, and the mother as well. Why run such a risk for a minimal payoff?”

“But I heard you could feel the baby moving. Inside you.”

“Much like a parasite. I guess there truly is a difference between Breeders and the rest of us. Now please continue.”

“Aston.”

“Accepted. Please continue.”

“Hmph. First try that time.”

“Please continue.”

“Josh.”

“Negative.”

“Sam.”

“Wrong.”

“Samuel.”

“Accepted. Please continue.”

“What about hair, eye and skin color? Do I get to choose those?”

“That is for the parents to decide. Don’t get greedy. Naming is within your rights. Please continue.”

“I heard that women used to be beautiful when they were growing their babies. That they used to glow.

“Like radio-active waste? Women used to gain between ten and seventy pounds for only one offspring! They used to throw up and bleed and spend months in pain. You are lucky things aren’t that way anymore. And then you would have to find a way to take care of the thing yourself, which we all know is impossible for someone like you. Now will you please focus? And continue.”   

“Nathan.”

“Error.”

“Naman.”

“No.”

“Navan.”

“Denied. Stop making things up.”

“Naban.”

“Accepted. Hmmm.”

“Please continue?”

“Yes.”

“Could I ever hold them?”

What?

“When they come out of the final jars. Could I ever hold them? Just a little?”

“That is quite enough. Talking about glowing and growing them yourself is one thing. But the Free People aren’t going to stand for a Breeder holding their children. Now, I’m a tolerant woman, and you are lucky. But I suggest you never let anyone hear you talk like that again. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good. Now please continue.”

“Henry.”

“Accepted. That’s a good one.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

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During my weekly writing group, we were reviewing the outline for my next novel. The idea came up (taking this entirely out of context) that happy endings are, in general, cheesy. Can a novel end “happily ever after” without becoming non-literary crap? Let’s explore.  

I will briefly review some stories that have different types of ending. SPOILER ALERT- I can’t very well talk about the endings without referring to what happens, so if you don’t want to know how a particular book/movie/play ends, skip that review.  

The four ending styles are: Happy, Tragic, Ambiguous, and Happy with a Twist.  

Happy:  

 Elantris by Brandon Sanderson  

The setup: Raoden wants to rule the kingdom that is rightfully his, Sarene wants to help her new husband.   

The end: Raoden gains the throne, is healed from his mysterious disease, gains amazing powers, and marries Sarene. She is happy too, getting to rule the kingdom and use her diplomatic powers, and finding she really likes the guy her father arranged for her to marry.   

The impact: A powerful punch of a first novel. (Though it wasn’t the first he wrote!) When it was over, I wanted more. I wanted to see what Raoden would do with his powers. But did it make me reconsider all I know about life, the universe and everything? No.  

Would I do it?: Absolutely. Why not write about good people who work hard and get what they want in the end? Isn’t that why we work hard to begin with?   

   

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer  

The setup: Edward and Bella have a forbidden love, and everything from werewolves to enemy vampire clans to Bella’s own humanity threaten to keep them apart.  

The end: Bella gets everything: she has Edward forever, her daughter is going to be fine, the Cullen Family has enough prowess and friends to keep the Volturi at bay for millennia, and she even gets to hang out with Jacob, at last, without all the angst. There is no problem, everything is happy.   

The impact: Meh. Say what you want about Twilight’s lack of literacy, and I will agree with you. But no one can deny its outrageous popularity. Despite that though, what it really leaves you with is: “Why doesn’t MY husband hang on my every word and watch me sleep?”  

Would I do it?: NO. At least, I hope not. It’s a tough one, isn’t it? On the one hand this is your classic “snack book.” It’s a guilty little pleasure you hope no one sees you with, yet you devour all four books in a week. On the other hand, Stephenie Meyer is set for life!  

   

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen  

The setup: Darcy and Elizabeth really don’t hit it off.  

The end: Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their pride and prejudice, respectively, and end up the happiest of anyone (except maybe Bingley and Jane). They know they are good for each other, they are both good-looking, and Darcy is rich.  

The impact: Huge. One of the great classics of English Literature, and now one of the most copied stories of all time. They are happy, we are happy.  

Would I do it?: Uh, yeah! If I could, I most certainly would.   


Tragic: 

  

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey  

The setup: Randle McMurphy is a memorable character we almost feel bad about rooting for. He has vices: he’s dirty, he gambles, he treats women like objects, but he stands up to Nurse Ratched, the oppressor without an iota of human mercy.   

The end: McMurphy is lobotomized, and Cheif Bromden smothers him with a pillow to end his suffering, then flees the psych ward.   

The impact: Big. I remember this novel very well, though I read it long ago. I remember instances of acute pain and others of personal triumph. This book makes you question the establishment and the basic concepts of right and wrong.  

Would I do it?: Again, as if I could. But let’s pretend I could…I don’t know if I would. Its implications are far-reaching, and its impacts long-lasting, but when you finish reading it, you just feel down. Isn’t there a way to get life-long remembrance without making readers want to kill themselves?  

Hamlet by William Shakespeare  

The setup: Claudius murders Hamlet’s father, and Hamlet seeks revenge.  

The end: Everybody dies. Everybody.  

The impact: Astronomical. I don’t feel qualified to analyze Hamlet’s impact on humanity. But at the same time, when it’s over, I’m left with a sense of frustration: if Hamlet would have just killed his uncle and stopped hesitating! I think tragedy gives me a sense of futility above all else: if Romeo just would have gotten that missive from Friar Laurence! I don’t like feeling that if only one little thing had gone differently, things wouldn’t have ended with a bloodbath.  

Would I do it?: I’m gonna have to go with no. I may be closing the door on a world of potential literary genius here, but I like to feel good, and I think most people do.  

    

Ambiguous:  

The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood  

The setup: A religious sect has taken over and relegated fertile women to the role of breeders for the infertile upper society.  

The end: Offred is offered a chance to escape that may or may not be a trap. Maybe she steps into freedom, maybe she steps into her own execution; we don’t know for sure.  

The impact: This book affected me greatly. I first read it in high school and recently reread it, and both times I was left with a sense of awe. It’s feminist, to be sure, and anti-establishment, which I’m really not. But the idea that women are forced into roles they don’t want resonates with me. And the writing is phenomenal: very chiaroscuro, which I strive for.  

Would I do it?: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! In my wildest authorial dreams, I would write a book like this.  

    

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  

The setup: Yossarian recalls, in hectic bits, his experience in World War II, the futility of war, and the impossibility of escape.  

The end: Yossarian realizes that his tent mate did not die, but rowed a life-raft to Switzerland to wait out the war. Yossarian decides he too, can escape this way, and on his way out the door, someone tries to stab him. The end.  

The impact: This novel brilliantly demonstrates the author’s experience in war. Despite the death of most of the protag’s friends, this book was laugh-out loud funny. I will remember it and recommend it for the rest of my life. But did Yossarian’s tent mate really make it to Switzerland? Can Yossarian ever really escape the horrors of war? We are left to decide for ourselves.  

Would I do it?: Yes. The dreams where I could write this book might be even wilder than the ones where I write like Margaret Atwood.  

See also: A Brave New World by Aldus Huxley  

    

Happy with a Twist:  

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien   

The setup: Frodo must destroy the One Ring or the entire world will suffer death and oppression. A host of beings of different races sign up to help him.  

The end: Frodo succeeds. Yay! We’re all saved! But wait: the pain of the Ring is too great. Frodo can no longer live in the world he saved, and must take a ship across the sea with the elves, presumably to a sort of heaven or paradise. Sam and Aragorn get to live happily ever after, but there is nothing that can heal Frodo.  

The impact: Again, huge. Tolkien, along with C.S. Lewis, defined fantasy as we know it today. The writing can be – dare I blaspheme?- a little dull. Ok, sometimes it’s a lot dull. But to find out what happens to Tolkien’s characters, I will read about Tom Bombadil frolicking uselessly. Not up for it? Luckily Peter Jackson’s films brought the epic to a new generation of humanity (me, for instance) with the characters and themes intact, and most of the fluff cut out.  

Would I do it?: Yes. Yes I would. Call me cocky, but I like to think I can write a fantasy that is more pointed and meanders less. We call it outlining, my friend, so we don’t forget characters and plotlines…  

   

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (Book Three of Mistborn)  

The setup: Vin and Elend have overthrown a tyrannical ruler, and now deal with the larger forces of Ruin and Preservation, who battle over the fate of the world.  

The end: Vin essentially becomes Preservation, giving up her human body and becoming a presence. Elend gathers an army, and is killed leading them in battle. Sazed, Vin’s and Elend’s companion and friend, becomes God and restores the broken world to its proper, healthy state.  

The impact: Personally, I was floored. Here are two characters I love (Elend in particular has a spot in my heart) laid out, pale and quite dead, and somehow I feel good. It’s probably because everything they fought for was finally achieved, even if they weren’t alive to see it. That alone, however, would not have been enough to allay the frustration I feel when people in stories needlessly die. What made it all ok, then, was that Sanderson crafted the events so that victory would have been impossible without those deaths. The heroes give their lives for their cause, and are two key pieces in reaching the long sought-for goal: the healing of the world, and freedom from Ruin’s presence. In the end, bits of knowledge that seemed worthless end up being of utter importance: tidbits the reader may have overlooked turn out to be vital.  

Would I do it?: This question gets sillier all the time. I will strive my whole life to write a book, a trilogy, as compelling, original, well-planned and yet surprising as the Mistborn Trilogy.  

So what do you think? Which stories stay with you? Which type of ending is your favorite? Which is the most effective?

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Outline-Inator!

So I’m currently up to a 7 page outline for SunCatcher. I have Dan Wells Style 7 Point Story Structure points for 4 character development arcs (2 good guys and 2 bad guys), and 2 subplots (action and romance). Now I am going back and adding outline-like detail on each of the seven points. At some point I’m going to put this all into a spreadsheet and align it. I also need to create a culture for the white people and finish other world building details. But it’s coming along!

After an initial brain dump of all my ideas for this world, I started on my 7 point plot outline for the romance. Then I made one for the main protagonist development arc, and quickly realized several key points were missing! Ditto for the antagonist (she was missing even more pieces). The beautiful part is that I am realizing this now, BEFORE I’ve written 450 pages of the story.

So…yay Dan Wells. If I ever meet you again, sir, I will shake your hand and thank you. In the meantime, I guess the least I could do is buy your book. 🙂

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So, I’m debating squishing the Chronos pot. I may just be taking a break from it. But here’s what my work on it has taught me so far.

1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! — Yeah, definitely number one. I spent about 2-3 months planning Chronos. I planned characters, but not well enough. I planned out my system of time travel pretty extensively, so that wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t iron out the problems I could see in the plot. I just got sick of planning and started writing. I felt like I could get stuck in directionless planning forever. When I began I didn’t even have a concrete setting. A lot of the world specific phrases like Declare and Punishers just came out on the fly. During the first several chapters I invented wildly, and would often wait a week or more between chapters while I tried to think of what should come next. By the time I got to the middle, I had a good idea of how it would all end, but that meant the beginning was a lot of mucking about trying to figure where to go, which is how it reads. So now I have 130,000 words, and they aren’t very succinct. 2 things would have helped: 1. Have a set method for planning, and 2. workshop my planning in my (awesome!!) writing group. I was so stuck on surprising everyone, I wouldn’t get help with my big picture. For my next venture, I will not only use a more pointed method of planning, I will also ask my writing group to help me find the problems with it BEFORE I write the book. Not after, which is what’s happening now…   

2. The Daffodil Principle — Ah, yes, the principle by which to govern your entire life. Another way of saying this would be “all things in moderation,” but that’s so Biblical. The Daffodil Principle is the story of a twenty-something who is driving and finds a huge field of daffodils planted in swirls of different colors and varieties, a mosaic of yellows and oranges and whites on a hillside. She learns that an old woman in a shack planted them. When asked how, the old woman says, “One at a time. Everyday for 60 years I planted 2 or 3 daffodils on that hill. Now look what I’ve made.” Ok, so I butchered that story, but you (hopefully) get the idea. I started with the goal to just write 100 words a day. At first they didn’t have to be on the same project, and they didn’t have to meet any quality standards. They just had to be 100 words of creative (non-blog) writing a day. Eventually I started averaging several hundred. In my heyday I was up to 1000 words a day. Trying to write a novel all at once is both daunting and impossible. But breaking it up into manageable chunks allows you to eat the whale one bite at a time (another saying with the same idea). Anyway, now I try to balance my efforts: I could stay up all night every night and try to finish the book in a month, or I could be content to plant a daffodil everyday and know that, in a few months, I will have a beautiful garden.

3. Readers will notice the inconsistencies. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. — Pretty self-explanatory. There were problems with some of my character motivations and some of the workings of my world, and even though I recognized them, I really thought no one  would notice. Duh! My first readers noticed right away. And so will yours. So threat them like the intelligent audience they are.

4. Keep several irons in the fire. — Sometimes I get writer’s block. A lot, actually. (Dan Wells says this means what you are writing is not necessary to the story and might need to be cut…) While writing Chronos I came up with the ideas for 5 other books and wrote numerous short stories. I used to jot down the ideas, then force myself to work on Chronos, the alleged task at hand. I now think it’s great to take a break from what’s not working, just to take a step back, get the juices flowing again, and most of all, stay excited about writing. As soon as writing is a chore you won’t write well, if at all. I now work on a short story whenever an idea strikes, and I’m working on getting some published in hopes of joining the SFWA. (More to come on this topic…)

I know as I keep writing I will continue to learn, and hopefully my writing will improve. I’m also learning from editing, but right now that’s mostly frustration, so I think I’ll wait to pontificate on that.

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