Tag Archives: write

Write Fight Club Reflections

When I first started writing, I wasn’t scared to submit to contests more than I was to submit to agents.

Agents are less intimidating to me. While people consider them the gateway to getting published, I always saw agents as people who are looking to create a business partnership. Submitting to contests, however, was someone actively judging my work. And not just judging. In my imagination, the organizers were gods, scrutinizing every word, looking down on my poor unfortunate writing and laughing as they sang a song about how stupid I was to even consider submitting.

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Then I found Write Club, and my thoughts on the subject changed.

What is Write Club?

As a quick explanation, Write Club was started by D.L. Hammons, loosely based off the movie Fight Club. You anonymously submit a 500 word story with a pen name into a slush pile. From the slush pile, it gets narrowed down to 30 writers, and then other people online vote for their favorites in 15 bouts. Over time it’s narrowed down to finalists, and the winner’s announced at the DFW Writer’s Conference.

Write Club Soap 2

This is a very bare bones definition of Write Club, and if you want a better idea of it, check out the link above.

Why did this contest change my mind about submitting to contests?

The idea that no one would be able to associate my writing to me took some of the stress out of it. I always saw contests as being judged as a good or bad writer. Instead it turned into “this work isn’t as enjoyable to me”. If someone didn’t like my work I didn’t think it would reflect on my abilities, it was just a matter of taste.

Then when I saw the entries, I realized it really WAS a matter of taste. I would read a piece and think, “This person is clearly the winner!” but then I’d see other people voting for the other person. I was baffled at what they saw in the other piece, but that was just the nature of the game.

And that’s when I realized that ALL forms of submissions were a matter of taste. There are some books I can’t stand that get published and hit top of the sales charts, and there are some books I love that never get noticed.

Write Club cured me of my submitting to contests fear, and I have to admit, I’m already editing my piece for next year’s contest.

Write Club
Host, D.L. Hammons, with a few participants /raffle winners at the 2018 DFW Writer’s Conference. (From Left to Right, with Twitter screen name) Mike Hilton (@5hourninja), Wanda Woodworth (@wandawoof), D.L. Hammons (@DL_H), Dannie Olguin (@DannieMOlguin), and myself (@aemcauley)

Would you like to join in Write Club?

Submissions are open March 12th until April 1st or just check out DL Hammons’ page and follow his blog.

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Writing Conference Reflection Month – July Schedule

It’s been three days since I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth Writing Conference, and the more time that passes, the more I look back and go “Wow, did I really just spend 48 hours surrounded by other writers?”. It went by way too fast.

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To make up for missing the time I spent with my fellow writers, I decided to turn July into a “Writing Conference Reflection” month. Since this was my first conference, I’m going to talk about what I learned, what I wish I knew, and what I’ll be doing differently for my next conference.

I’ll be making posts every Monday, but will also be adding up one on Friday for suggested topics, if I find the time.

 

Here are some things I’ll be posting about. If you have anything you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask me to add it!

  • Talking to Agents
  • Making New Friends (suggested by JoAnne Turner)
  • Your First Pitch
  • What Classes Should You Take
  • Importance of Self Care

 

Look for these topics and more this July!

Know How to Market Your Novel

In 1992, Batman Returns hit theaters to an audience that had, to some extent, no idea what they were in for. This in part was due to the marketing put out at the time, both in content, and the lack there of.

The limited marketing till the last minute, decided by Robert G. Friedman, Warner’s president of worldwide theatrical advertising and publicity at the time*, was meant to build hype. Instead of promoting the movie’s plot, they sold merchandise in the form of toys, t-shirts, and Coke cans. This youth based marketing lead parents to believe that this would be a movie for children.

Then it hit theaters.

Something's not right here
They seemed to have a bit of a miscommunication as far as just how dark this movie was going to be.

The cheerful toys put out by McDonald’s were a far cry from Tim Burton’s version of the Dark Knight, and many believe this caused him to lose his credibility for the next Batman film.

In many ways, because of the poor marketing done by higher ups and misleading the audience, Burton fell from grace in the eyes of the movie goers for a short time, and we wound up with Batman Forever and *shudder* Batman & Robin, both directed by Joel Schumacher.

So what does this have to do with your book?

Too many times, especially with independent and self published authors, bad marketing is done in one of two ways. Spamming social media to the point where followers lose interest, and/or lying to the audience.

Now, of course, this goes without saying that this isn’t what ALL independent authors do, this is just what I notice as a trend in those who don’t know how to marketing works.

Lying to your audience, in my opinion, is the worse of the two. While spamming is annoying, deceiving your audience for the sake of hype discredits you as a writer. If you say your book is a fun fantasy, with promotional products featuring flowers and singing birds, when really it’s a dark story filled with adult themes, the next time someone sees your name, they’re less likely to trust your book.

In Burton’s case, he didn’t have a say in marketing, as he was just the director, but he still suffered for the choices made by higher ups. This is another lesson you can take away from the Batman Returns debacle.

If you hire someone to do the marketing for you, know what they’re putting out.

Burton didn’t have a hand in how his movie was presented to the world, as he answered to Warner Brothers, but you, as an independent author, do. If you hire someone to create your cover, make a video, or do any promotional items for you, you have the right to say the product doesn’t convey the tone of your novel.

This is extremely important. The ability to chose how and what in a novel is put out to the world is why many people are leaning more toward independent publishing vs traditional. If you don’t exercise your right to veto ideas presented by people working for you, you can wind up in the Burton boat.

You should always be polite when working with others, but remember, you need to stand up for your work. Also know that you get what you pay for. Paying someone to design your cover for only $10 is great, however remember that they might not have the best quality product.

All in all, marketing is extremely important. It’s the business side to writing that some independent authors overlook all together, but this is crucial to your sales. Learn from Batman Returns and create a marketing campaign that’s an honest representation of your novel.

Have any marketing tips that work for you? Disagree with anything I said here? Comment below and let me know.

Sunday Aesthetic – Misery in Magic

Take Beauty and the Beast and add a bit of The Craft, with a dash of The Sopranos. Throw in a pinch of the His Dark Materials trilogy (and I mean a small pinch), and what do you get? Misery in Magic.

At least, I that’s the recipe I’m using.

My work in progress is coming along nicely, but I’m still in the plotting stages. To get a better idea of what I wanted, as far as the vibe of my novel went, I made an aesthetic to help me along.

Enjoy a small blurb from my first chapter below!

misery in magic

No one said a word as Isabelle stood. Her siblings stared as she walked to the oldest of the McKellen clan, her chin lifted to meet his cold grey eyes. The tattoos on his arms and neck all told stories of people he killed and demons he summoned. Could she ever love him? No, but she would still marry him if it meant peace between their families.

“I’ll do it,” she spoke more clearly than she thought she could. “I’ll take your hand.”

His family behind him murmured, but hers was silent. They didn’t care what happened. She was their sacrificial lamb, and her future husband before her was the wolf they were feeding her to.

“Did you kill my sister?” he asked, his voice so deep it vibrated down to her bones.

“No,” she answered, “but if I agree to the terms of the treaty, does it matter?”

“No. I guess it doesn’t.” He was emotionless as he stared into her, finally shaking his head. “I agree to take you as my wife.

Cole O’Bryne. Her new husband. The man she was sure who would kill her.

 

What do you think? Have any other modern magical books or movies to suggest? I’m definitely enjoying the direction this romance is going, but could always use some more inspiration!

Learning how to edit

I’ve been working on Flightless since July 2016. I did my own NaNoWriMo, and finished the first draft in a month at close to 100k words.

Over the next year, I cut it back to 85k, submitted it, got rejected multiple times, and finally got some interest after I rewrote my query. Two agents asked for the full manuscript, and one got back to me and said sadly, I needed to refocus and make major changes.

I edited again, taking my time, fixing plot holes they pointed out, and staying up late to figure out how to make my novel more enjoyable. It was a tough lesson in writing, but I learned the importance of a fine tooth comb edit.

I thought I was done, but because I was in the middle of a move, I set Flightless aside and focused my attention on traveling. Then a funny thing happened. I got another idea. It was one of those ideas that should’ve been common sense, but that didn’t hit me till I was reading The Scarlet Gospels.

Make my antagonist more relatable.

I love my antagonist, Abram, but the problem was I loved him for reasons that weren’t in the book. In Flightless, I painted him in two dimensions. He was evil for the sake of being evil, something I can’t stand when other people do it, and that I was ashamed of when I realized my mistake. Here was a character I spent hours developing, crying over his character arch, but then gave him next to nothing when it came time to let him shine.

I’m back at edits again, this time with a few books about editing in hand, and narrowing my focus on my characters. I’m convinced this is my final round, and I hope that now that I’m close to being done, I can have Flightless back in the querying pool soon.

Here’s hoping, cause damn, it’s not the writing that’s hard when it comes to creating a book. It’s the rewriting.

Writer on the Road: Help me pick a plot! – Day 5

 

Almost done with my trip! I have one more day left on the road before we reach our destination, so today, I’m going to do a quick run down of plots I was working on while driving. If you see one that you like that you’d like me to elaborate on, please comment below! I’m looking for a plot to turn into a Wattpad project, so I could use some help with picking what sounds the most interesting.

 

  • Hades x Persephone – Romance –  I like the idea that Persephone didn’t get kidnapped, she ran away. That she was already in love with Hades and the two decided to run from Demeter, and Persephone only returned when she saw her mother was going to kill the Earth. I’d love to go into just how Hades and Persephone met and fell in love, and came up with a full novel for this retelling.

  • Medusa – Revenge Plot – I hate the hand Medusa was given. She was raped, turned away by her goddess, and then was killed and used even in her death. I’d like to give Medusa a more fitting end. She asks Athena to turn her into a gorgon to get back at those who wronged her, and kills whoever comes to kill her because she found her power in her pain.

  • Misery in Magic (possible title) – Urban Fantasy – Basically, this is an urban fantasy novel about an arranged marriage between two magic users from high standing families. Unlike the typical “forced wedding” romance plot, this one is more about how they have to work together to over come someone who uses magic to harm humans. It’ll have more of a “slow burn” romantic subplot, and really focuses more on the blurred lines between good and evil.

  • Salvation (possible title) – Supernatural Detective – Out of all the ones I’ve been toying with on my drive, this one is the most under developed. I have a demon. He goes on road trips. He’s got a priest with him that’s damned to hell that’s trying to redeem himself. That’s about it. Maybe it’ll be something like Clive Barker’s work mixed with a bit of Supernatural, but I really like the characters that came to mind while driving, so I’d like to have the in their own story

  • Modern Cinderella – Coffee Shop Romance- Yes. It’s been done. Yes. I know we don’t need another Cinderella story, but I want a story that follows the version where the prince and his friend switch places for the night. And I want it in a modern setting. Call me crazy, but I love this idea, and I think it’d make for a fun quick enjoyable read.

  • Forged in Fire (possible title) – Traveling High Fantasy – This one is one I’ve actually drawn out a character for a while ago, but I’m only just now trying to decide a solid plot. Basically, I have a high fantasy world where a knight is on the run, and comes into contact with a woman who does folk magic. She agrees to help him get his honor back, but for a price. It’d be pretty heavily inspired by Ladyhawk and Willow, since I’m a sucker for 80’s fantasy.
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Here’s the sketch of the knight character, Dawson.
  • Multiple Species High Fantasy – Escape High Fantasy – This one would have a lot more magic and different species compared to the one before it. It’s inspired by the worlds of Dragon Age, Witcher and Lord of the Rings, and would be a little heavier on the world building than the one I mentioned above. Out of all my ideas, this one is my least likely to pick, just because it’s a really big project, but hey, if you think you want to read a heavy high fantasy, let me know.

 

 

Which idea sounds like a fun, no pressure story that you’d like to read for free?

 

Writer on the Road – Day 4

We’re back in civilization tonight and had Whataburger for dinner for the first time in almost 6 months. For those of you who know what that is, you know how fantastic I found my meal after being away from it for so long.

We left Utah today and made it into New Mexico. With only two days of driving left, I spent a lot of time today thinking about writing and what I want for my life. 

When I first started writing, I had no intention of ever being published. I liked to write because it helped me escape from reality but it wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up. I shared with my friends, and while they enjoyed it, I never thought I’d one day try to sell my work. 

I kept up the work, even when I didn’t think I’d make it a career, until about three years ago I realized it’s what I want to do with my life. That being said, I’ve never been published. I’m not writing to pay the bills yet, I’m writing still out of passion, so I don’t have to worry yet about the career side of the writing world. 

As I realized this, I had to ask myself, do I really want a career as a writer? Do I want the work as well as the play? Why not just be a hobbiest, why do I want to be recognized as an author?

Being a hobbiest and being a professional are two totally different animals. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. 
Everyone has to answer that question to themselves. For me, I decided on day four of my drive that I wanted to be a writer, not because of the romance, but because I like the work. I like the hours bent over a manuscript. I love the feeling of starting a new idea. And as much as I complain, I even enjoy the editing. 

Work isn’t some four letter word to me as so many creative types make it out to be. It’s something I find myself embracing. Writing is as much of a career choice as it is a way to share my love of stories with others, and that’s why I’m perusing a job as a writer.

It was a nice realization and it’s fueling my fire as I keep on writing this November. I love the work that gets put into books, and I can’t wait to jump into the career side.

I don’t know why you write, but please let me be clear. Everyone’s reason is a valid one. If you want a career as a professional writer, you go after it with all the fire you’ve got. Everyone has their drive, tell me yours below and let’s share the love of the job! 

Writer on the Road – Day 3

There’s something about dying desert towns that makes me anxious. I drove through the small town of Green River, Utah tonight. As the sun went down at my back, the moon bleached out the buildings as I looked for my hotel.

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If you ever travel to Green River, you’ll notice one side of the street is lined with gaudy, half working neon lights, the other is long dead and empty. If you go on a full moon, the cold light will make the husks of closed motels and empty gas stations look haunted. \

When I finally made it over the river and looked back at the city behind me, I can’t tell if my imagination is running away with me, or if there really are figures moving on the plateau outlined in the setting sun.

It was unsettling to say the least.

But I learned some very important writing lessons today. One, every place you drive through can be inspiring enough to write a little overly flowery blog post, and two learn how to manage your time.

If you caught last night’s blog post, you’ll know I was having trouble at my last hotel with the wifi, and this night started out exactly the same. I downloaded my files to my phone, and managed to start last night’s words, even if I didn’t meet what I was originally hoping for. The funny thing is, I had net at one point, but thought “I can always finish this later, I want to screw around online right now”. I made plans for a later time, but that later time turned out to be problematic.

So here’s tonight lesson. If you want to write a book, start to notice when you’re wasting time, because you might not get it even if you plan for it. Even if you’re a night writer, if you get an hour in the morning, write in the morning. Worse case scenario, you get a little bit of work done, and you still have that night to write. Best case scenario, you lose that time, and you’re already done.

It should be an easy lesson to learn, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do this sort of thing. Maybe this trip will make it skip this time.

2017 NaNoWriMo Influence Map

My NaNoWriMo novel this year is a paranormal comedy, and with it only a week away, I gathered up my inspiration to make myself an Influence Map.

As promised, here’s what’s keeping me motivated on this project!

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1. This one is a bit obscure if you don’t know The Twilight Zone, but in season 3 episode 16, I saw Death personified for the first time in pop culture. I was 10 when I first saw this episode, and it’s stuck with me all these years. While Death won’t be a huge character in my novel, I definitely love the idea of Death appearing to people in different forms, and hope to translate this as well as The Twilight Zone did.

2. I found this picture on pinterest and for whatever reason, it just cracked me up. From this picture, I started collecting others that reminded me of haunted cafes, or ghost related things. I took it and ran, and haven’t stopped since.

3. Now, I won’t be too influenced by Gravity Falls, but I do like the general feel of the show. A town with supernatural happenings that just kind of shrugs and goes with it is definitely the vibes I want to give off.

4. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of Ghost Whisperer, but an old writing friend of mine pointed out some of my plot points reminded her of that show, so I went back and rewatched a few clips, and yeah, there are definitely a couple similarities. Not many, but enough to admit when there are common themes.

5. Buffy is one of my favorite shows of all time. I love the girl killing monsters trope, and while my main character isn’t as outgoing as Buffy, she’ll definitely be in a “Hell Mouth” situation. She’ll also be a reluctant hero type, so that’s a bit of inspiration for me as well.

6. & 7. Practical Magic and Dime Store Magic are inspiring as far as the witchcraft goes, but also because of how they portray female friendship/sisterhood. Much like Death, witches won’t have a huge part in my novel, but they’ll have enough of an impact on the plot to take some inspo for them.

8. Gilmore Girls has a bigger square because I’ll definitely be pulling some of the class division in small town life, as well as a woman trying to make her own away from her family. As I’ve been saying, this is really a paranormal book about friendships, especially positive female ones, and I really hope to be able to portray that.

9. I’ve been listening to the podcast, New World Witchery for close to 3 years now. While it’s mostly about North American magic, they have side stories revolving around folklore that I’ve always found inspiring. Their collections of ghost stories, American witchcraft, and general folklore will heavily be influencing my world building.

10. There’s a house in the small town of Steilacoom, WA that sits on a hill facing the bay. With two stories and a shade of dark mint green, when I first drove by it, I had my husband pull over so I could get a closer look. Now an office building, it’s the perfect size and layout of where I imagine MC lives and works, with a cafe in the bottom, and bedrooms on top. It’s my main setting inspiration, and I can’t wait to explain why this house turned cafe is now the pit stop for lost souls in my universe.

11. Good Omens was the first Terry Pratchett, and 3rd Neil Gaiman book I’ve ever read. I loved the snappy dialogue and hilarious idea that an angel and demon are trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. The writing style of both authors has heavily influenced my comedic work, and to say I didn’t get my character dynamics from them would be a lie.

12. As stated above Steilacoom, WA is a town a drive through or visit semi frequently. The first town in Washington, I love how cute and quiet it is, but since I’m a small town girl, I know that there’s probably some problems there that are just under the surface. Maybe there aren’t literal ghosts people are trying to hide, but I bet everyone has a few skeletons they try to keep buried. While I called my city “Stella Cove, WA”, there will definitely be some similarities between the two cities.

 

Hope you enjoyed seeing where my ideas are heading! If you’d like to make one of these influence maps, check out the link here for the download. Also, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo comment below with how you’re getting ready. What’s your story about? Have a link to share? Throw it my way!

Also, I’m looking for writing buddies, so shoot me a line on the NaNoWriMo site to team up.

Top 10 Things Unpublished Writers Hear

The road to being a published author is a bumpy one. Holding down a day job, raising kids, constant criticism, and your own internal struggle can be daunting. You know one day you’ll get there, but in the mean time, here are things you’ll probably wind up hearing.

  1. “Why don’t you just self publish?” or alternately “Why don’t you just find an agent?”

Not every publishing style is perfect for every writer. What works for someone else might not work for you.

2. “Can you write me something for free? It’ll be good publicity.”

I’ve heard this a few times from people who want something like fan fiction or smut stories between them and a character/celebrity. It’s not really great publicity, when I’m not a romance writer.

3. “You’re a writer? But what do you REALLY do to earn money?”

I’ve heard this one more than once. I have a day job, but one day I’d like to be able to say that IS what I do to earn money.

4. “You’re a writer? So is my uncle! His agent just sold his 5th book to a publishing house!”

I’m always happy to hear someone being successful, but yeah, sometimes I do get a little envious.

5. “You’re just not trying hard enough!”

For many writers, this can be true, but when you just start submitting, you’re at the beginning of your journey. Keep submitting. You’re doing great.

6. “You could be the next Stephen King!”

Do you know how lofty that goal is? Hell, I just want to get a book out there, I can focus on becoming ridiculously popular and established later.

7. “When does your book come out?”

Good question. As soon as I get that agent and manage to sell my manuscript I’ll let you know.

8. “What does your spouse/family think?”

I’m not sure why this one comes up. It always makes me scratch my head and wonder why it matters? Even if I didn’t have support I’d still be trying to be a writer. Should their opinion really matter that much?

9. “Why not write a book about something that’s popular right now?”

Because trends are constantly changing and you shouldn’t cater to what’s popular. By the time you’re finished with your book, it’ll be out of style.

 

10. “You just finished your first book, what are you going to work on next?”

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First, I’m going to take a second to breathe, send out query letters, build a writer’s platform and sign up for some conferences….then maybe write something about human cloning, but you know, that’s a little ways away. The point is, there’s a lot that comes next.