Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Sooo...maybe this isn't as great an accomplishment as Athena's publication of AG (and congratulations to her! I promise I'll order it. One of these days). But it means rather a lot to me personally, and I know you guys'll party with me about it, so here goes.

I have finally finished a short story I began over a year ago.

Yeah, I know, I know. But that's the thing about the way I write. I get the "bug" and dash off a page of self-contained brilliance, or the beginning of a novel that I dream about and plan out and hang out with the characters of, and then for whatever reason, I slowly stop writing about until it's left half-finished and languishing in bottom-drawer hell. So actually getting to write the ending that I've had planned out for over a year (because that's how I plan my stories: I set up the premise and the characters and the backstory, and then I decide how I'd like it to end, and then I start writing and wait and see how everything else falls into place. So far it's worked.) is a really big deal for me. In fact, this might be the first piece of original fiction that I've worked on for longer than one day and that wasn't a school assignment, that I've actually finished.

Maybe this isn't such a great track record, but it pleases me. Why? Because I'm working my way up. Last summer, I completed a twenty-chapter fanfic that I started and posted to on a whim, and then had to finish. That was an accomplishment for me. Today, I've posted the end of Paper and Ink, and that's a bigger accomplishment. But the reason both of these matter to me is not what they are, but what they could be.

These two small successes mean that I have brought myself to the point where I can finish things, rather than find some small fault with them and let it grow until I can't move forward anymore, or get bored and flutter off to another project. And that means that I can finish a full-length novel.

And that means it's party time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Press Releases and Gorilla Marketing

No matter how much a book may write itself, I've come to realize that no book is going to sell itself. So, a couple of random tips on how to get your book (/product/whatever) noticed and (hopefully) selling.

First off, the press release. I didn't know this, but apparently, you need one. Any time a company launches a new product, or an author (or publishing house) launches a new book, someone writes a press release and sends it to every relevant media outlet they can think of. A lot of the people who receive it won't care, but some will, and it just might mean your name in a paper, in a blog entry or on the radio. Prefferably, you want to send your press release out just as your book (or whatever) is available. You might even want to send one out before it is available, telling them it is going to be available and offering a review copy, because many reviewers won't review a book that's already been released. I've sent the one for Aigaion Girl to our very own Jam to look over (Jam is the new Editor in Chief of The Muse - Congrats Jam!), and I don't know exactly how effective it will be, but from the tonne and a half of research I've done on it, this is how a press release (actually now called a Media release, because they're sent to everyone, not just papers) should look:

For Immediate Release:

(contact name)
(contact phone number)
(contact fax)
(contact email)


(City), (Province/State), (Date)

(First Paragraph)*

(Second Paragraph)**

### OR - End -

* The first paragraph should contain the basic info (who, what, where, why, why we care)

**The second paragraph should contain the more detailed info.

Always refer to yourself in the third person and try to write the press release as if you are an uninterested third party. I wish I had more info to share, but first we'll have to see if I've done mine properly.

As for the Gorilla Marketing, this is something I'm quickly learning about. The Internet has made marketing a million times easier, but in so doing, has made it a lot less relevant. There are a tonne of ads on almost every site you visit, so I'm not really rushing to add mine to the throng and hope it gets noticed somehow.

My theory is that the best way to get noticed is through search results. If someone types your (pen)name into Google, you want you to be the first person on the list. The same with your book/story/poem title. There are a couple of ways to achieve this. One, link everything. Link to your website from your other website, link your blogs together, include your website(s) in profile on every forum you belong to... and the second, which is kind of a pain in the ass, use your own links. When I have to get to my website, (see what I did there?), I don't just type in the url and hit enter. No, I search
"Athena McCormick" on google, then I click the link that pops up for my website. I have the unfair advantage of a really unusual name (there is another one in Colorado), but my site is now at the top of the list, where it wasn't before.

Spiders are the best thing ever for marketing, especially for us poor, starving artist types, because they're relatively easy (albeit time consuming) to use and manipulating them doesn't cost any money. Six days ago, when I approved Aigaion Girl for sale, I got a little automated message telling me I could expect to wait 15 business days (or three weeks) before it would be available on amazon. That seemed a little long, so ten or twenty times a day, I went to Amazon and typed "Aigaion Girl" into the search bar a whole bunch of times. When I got tired of that, I typed my name. Aigaion Girl showed up on Amazon yesterday. Go see for yourself (and boost my spiderness) here.

The one other thing (and the final one for the purposes of this article) I wanted to mention was email signatures. They don't have to be overly complex or witty; they just have to have some basic information and link to whatever you want linked - and once you've written them, they're always there an easy to use. I discovered today that not all mail clients will interpret the links correctly, however, so I suggest instead of saying "click here", you say something like, "visit my profile at" and link the url, so if the link goes dead, your recipient still has your url.

Okay, I think that's it for me. Hope this helps someone, somehow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Too Happy to Title

I guess elated would be as good a word as any, to describe the way I'm feeling. Maybe a bit shocky. Nearly a year and a half ago, I started writing Aigaion Girl ...a story of the end of days for the 2009 NaNoWriMo contest. I knew I wasn't going to win the contest, and I didn't care, I just wanted to write something. I picked Aigaion Girl because I didn't think the plot was very strong and I wanted to write something that if I trashed it by writing too fast, I wouldn't be that worried about. When I started posting chapters on FictionPress, I wasn't expecting much of a response, and at first, I didn't get one. Then, slowly but surely, I started to get comments. Those comments kept me writing and eventually, I fell in love with my characters and their story. Before I knew it, I couldn't stop writing.

And now, now my book is for sale. Actually for sale. People who are not me, people who don't even know me can find my book, buy it and read it. It's out there now.

It'll probably be a couple of weeks before it's available on Amazon; right now, it's only available here, on a little out-of-the-way corner of Createspace, but this is still an amazing feeling. I want to run through the streets shouting and I want to break down and cry. I can't even... Oh Lord, there aren't even words.

I know, I know, another shameless plug, but honestly, I can't help it. I have a book and it's for sale.

Biodegradable Clicky Pen

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been shopping quite a few times and until my most recent excursion, had been forgetting to buy pens. Pens are an important tool for me, especially now, with my laptop out of commission and a shared family computer which is almost always in use. I don't like to write long-hand in pencil; the graphite always smudges.

So, I was in Wal Mart, staring at a bunch of pens, almost all of them very cheaply made of very expensively priced. Then I came upon something cool by Papermate: a biodegradable pen. Not all of the components are biodegradable; the spring that allows it to click isn't and neither is the comfort grip - but, as the plasticless packaging points out, every little bit helps.

I've always loved Papermate, partially because of the soft coating on their classic ballpoints, partially because of the fact that their pens seem to write more smoothly and last longer than the majority of pens and largely due to the two little hearts that adorn the tops of their pens. In high school, during my first really big crush, I would stare at the top of my (borrowed) papermate pen and feel like whoever put those two surreptitious little hearts there must have some idea what I was feeling.

Anyway, I've gotten off track. I'm very pleased with my new biodegradable pen and I hope that these things will increase in popularity and, eventually, become the standard... and then, if only we can get post-consumer recycled paper to catch on, writing will be the the perfect profession.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

E's Ten Rules

Just in case anyone was interested...

1. Love your characters. Ignore the Mary-Sue litmus tests that say that if you think of your characters as anything more than pawns, you are a bad writer and deserve to be shot. If you don't care (and care deeply) about what happens to your characters, your story won't have any life to it. Readers will pick up on this, and it will make your books less appealing.

2. But just because you love your characters, don't cut them too many breaks. (This is probably what the 'Sue tests are talking about.) Treat your character as you would your child. If you stepped in to solve every one of your child's problems, that child would grow up spoilt and bratty. The same holds true for characters.

3. Don't flog a dead horse. If you aren't interested, readers won't be interested. If a story just isn't coming together, take a break. Do something else. Give up if you must.

4. Get to know your characters really, really well. It will help you keep them in character as you write, and help make them more real to the readers (who might then start fancults shipping two of your male mains. You never know). Finding out that Pat likes anchovies on her pizza, or that Sam has an obsessive need to correct punctuation on signs, might even further the plot. You never know.

5. Don't try to write immediately after reading a favourite book. Give it a couple hours to digest. Otherwise, the author's style turns up in chunks in your prose, and though it may be excellent writing in and of itself, it looks very out-of-place next to your style, whatever that is. (This one had to be learned through trial and error. Apparently, I actually don't write anything like J. M. Barrie, and trying to do it cold, without reading Peter Pan immediately beforehand, was impossible.)

6. Do the research. Any book, no matter the genre or intended audience, is always that much more engaging when it has the grounding in reality that proper details provide, and where are you going to find those details if you don't look for them? Also, glaring (or even minor) errors in the background world of your story will drag a reader out of that world faster than you can say "fourth wall". There are no excuses, especially not since the advent of Google. Do the research.

7. Make rules for your world and stick to them (unless you have a really good plot-driving reason to break them). It doesn't matter if you're on the ice moons of Appsodj:afkjwer in the Beta Centauri region, or in the court of Faerie, or on the streets of Toronto. Your world has to have rules that apply to everyone. And I do mean everyone, or you may end up with a 'Sue on your hands. (Unless you're Lewis Carroll, in which case, feel free to do whatever you like. The rest of us mere mortals, however, have to create believeable worlds, and the best way to do that it to establish rules.)

8. Learn grammar. And punctuation. And spelling. The best story, with the most memorable, lifelike characters, will go unread, unheard, and unnoticed if it's illegible. Readers won't do the work necessary to wade through a badly-punctuated, misspelled minefield no matter how good it is, and publishers will take one look at a manuscript riddled with typos and send a form rejection.

9. Write down everything that interests you. And I don't mean TV shows and bands and suchlike. That interesting headline in the newspaper, the way that guy you saw this morning in the coffee shop talked, the mysterious flash of light off the roof of the apartment building across from you, that thought you came up with at two in the morning...write it all down. You never know which spark will catch into a blaze.

10. Don't talk to your characters out loud when other people are present. (However, this is fine and even healthy when you're alone.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Ten Rules

In response to Rhiannon's post, I thought I'd try to come up with the ten rules I follow (or should follow) in my own writing. Here it goes.

1.Be true to your characters. No matter what it says in your outline, if two of your characters feel like getting into a relationship, a fight or a submarine, there's nothing you can do to stop it, so don't bother trying.

2.Picture every scene like you're actually watching it take place. Don't describe everything, but know everything, like where your characters are standing, what they're wearing, how much money they have on them - everything. (I don't always follow this one, even though I should)

3. RESEARCH. It can always be put off, but before you start working on getting something published, make sure there are no gross factual errors, because if there are, it will lead to: a) never being taken seriously or b) Being published and taken seriously until someone feels like bringing up the fact that twenty years ago, you misrepresented some cultural ceremony and then having everyone suddenly mad at you.

4. Take breaks. Not when you're on a roll, in the zone, or whatever you call it. In that state, even peeing is not necessary, unless you can take a notebook to the bathroom with you... but when you get to that stage where you're convinced that if you just stare at a blinking cursor for a little bit longer, you'll have an epiphany and be able to finish the whole book, go outside and get some fresh air. Have a drink. Relax. Take a notebook in case of epiphany, but don't even look at it unless you have something to write down.

5. Do not intentionally use big, convoluted words that nobody knows the meanings of. It doesn't make you look smart.

6. Learn how to correctly use punctuation. Don't try to use punctuation you don't understand.

7. Use your language correctly. I'm not saying that you should cut out words like 'ain't', if they fit with your story, but know the difference between your and you're, know your theres and your tos and be conscious that a scruple is not a unit of measure and pronounciated is not a word.

8. Pay attention to details and be consistent. If you're writing a letter from the perspective of somebody in the U.K., for example, remember that U.K. English, U.S. English and Canadian English are all slightly different. Make sure you're using the correct language for the situation. This likewise applies to clothing styles (don't go throwing capes around regency England unless you're sure that's what they were wearing), music (in 1999, no one was listening to 1999 - at least not on purpose) and just about anything else you can think of.

9. Give your characters flaws. No one wants to read about some hot guy with great teeth and perfect muscles who never does anything wrong and then gets the girl (unless the girl is a less than perfect brunette who's actually stunning in her own way and mistrusts men - and it says Harlequin on the cover).

10. Creep people out. Just a little.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ten Rules...

I was poking around Neil Gaiman's blog today, as I am wont to do, and in the recent past he posted a link to an article called Ten Rules For Writing Fiction.

There are more than ten rules/commandments. Actually, there are ten from several different authors. Some of them are complete bunk. Some of them are gems of wisdom. I haven't (yet) come across the one that essentially reads: "Break the Rules", or "Tell the Rule Makers to STFU", but I'm hoping they're in there.

Elmore Leonard (of whom I have never heard, but now I have someone to look up) has two rules of especial note:

3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.


4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".

Now, I can somewhat see what he's getting at there - there are definitely those who go overboard. At the same time, I fail to see why I can't use adverbs if I damn well feel like it. I've always used adverbs, to one degree or another. I try to keep them simple, just because I want dialogue to flow properly, but eradicating them entirely just seems...stupid. Plus, it's probably a personal foible, but I've noticed that, in the midst of books that follow those two rules, I find myself wondering what emotions I'm supposed to be feeling.

(One of) the most important thing(s) about writing is to find your own voice, that thread of style and phrasing and diction that screams to everyone that this work is yours, and no other's. Part of my 'voice' is the use of adverbs. So Elmore Leonard can lump it. He also writes westerns. So hah.

Seriously, though...the best rules about writing to follow are the ones you come up with after long years of practice. Everything else is merely a suggestion, and can therefore be treated as such.