Canned Wisdom #3

It’s Monday morning again, and it’s time for some food for thought:

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Previous week’s Canned Wisdom can be found here.

What’s a strong character? Very often the phrase comes with the word female inserted in the middle, and we get the phrase strong female character.

A lot of the time it seems that those who talk about strong female characters refer to characters who are strong in a worldly sense – strong within the world of the story. They may be rich and powerful, or they may be athletic and beautiful, or perhaps they’re extremely intelligent or have magical powers. Stuff like that.

That’s fine.

There’s nothing wrong with having characters that are powerful.

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Even a little light can remove a lot of darkness.

However, I think that from a storytelling perspective there’s more to the phrase strong character than just worldly power. A strong character is someone who moves the story forward on their own rather than someone who has the story happen to them.

 

This doesn’t require the character to be physically or mentally strong, and it doesn’t mean they need magical superpowers. What it does mean is they act and make decisions, and that these acts and decisions have an impact on the story. The character doesn’t just react to things that happen to them.

Example:

In a story I’m working on, the character Roy ends up an unwilling guest (prisoner in all but word) at a mansion up in the mountains. Naturally he wants to escape from there.

In the first draft of the story, the mansion’s cheeky old caretaker suggests that Roy could go down to the lake to fish in order to relax for a bit. That would be a great opportunity for Roy to escape, but it’s also an opportunity that gets handed to him by someone else. He doesn’t have anything to do with it at all.

In the second draft of the story, Roy asks the caretaker if there’s a fishing rod available.

The flow of the story is essentially the same in the two different versions: Roy escapes from the mansion by pretending to go fishing. The difference is that in the second draft, Roy comes up with the idea and sets it into motion himself.

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Morning coffee – and there’s more than one strong character in this picture, but that’s for me to know and for you to wonder about.

I hope this all makes some kind of sense to you, but if it doesn’t, feel free to leave a comment and ask. I’ll try my best to answer as soon as I can.

Canned Wisdom #3

Canned Wisdom #2

I believe I said I’d post this one today, so here it is:

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Previous post here.

The above statement is true as much in writing as in life in general – at least for me.

Also – and I’m not kidding here – I wrote a fairly long piece elaborating on the above. About halfway through I decided the words on the pictures speak for themselves, so I cut it.

I saved the words though and I will use them for another post in the future, probably something about info dumps.

Canned Wisdom #2

From Idea to Finished Story

Front Cover - OnlineI’ve got a new article up on Mythic Scribes. It’s a piece about how I took Emma’s Story from a vague and fuzzy idea to a finished story ready to be published.

It was a long journey and while the article skips a lot of the details, I think I managed to fit in all of the most important parts. Have a look, and don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask questions if you have any.

Also, if you’re a fantasy writer, do sign up for the forums and join into the discussions. It’s a great way to meet likeminded and to discuss writing with a fantasy backdrop.

From Idea to Finished Story

Canned Wisdom #1

Yesterday I wrote about doing a series of post with some basic writing advice.

I won’t be doing these every day, or I’ll run out of steam real soon. I figured I’d start off with the first part right away though – while I’m still excited about the idea.

Here goes:

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Yesterday, I mentioned Show, Don’t Tell as an example of catchy but overly simplified piece of writing advice. This image basically covers that rule, but it also tries to trick you into figuring out the reasoning behind the advice.

I very firmly believe that no matter how well I describe something, or how many words I use, I will never be able to communicate the exact image in my head to any of my readers. Fortunately, I do not have to.

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This morning’s sunrise. Completely unrelated?

Instead, what I want to do is give my readers the tools they need to create their own images. As long as their image matches what’s required of the story, it doesn’t matter if it’s not the same as mine.

If I give my reader the tools to build their own image they become more invested in it. By adding something of their own to the image it becomes more real to them than if I try to force my vision upon them.

Beware

There is a warning hidden in the message in the picture. It may not be obvious right away, and it’s probably worthy of a picture of its own, but I’ll mention it here anyway:

Do not mess up the reader’s own image.

What I mean here is that you need to keep track of what you have described and what you haven’t. For everything you describe, there are millions of things you do not mention. For every single one of these things, the reader has the option to imagine something other than what you are imagining.

2018-02-07 19.32.24If you return to your description at a later time and add more details, it is very likely that you will contradict what your reader imagined. This in turn has a very high probability of breaking their immersion and bringing them out of the story. I don’t want that to happen to me when I’m reading, and I don’t want it to happen to my readers.


That’s it for this time. I’ll probably do next post in the Canned Wisdom series on Wednesday or Tuesday next week. I may post something or other about my book, or about whatever else comes to mind in the meantime though.

Finally, do you have any comments or questions or opinions on what I write above? Please feel free to leave a comment below. :)

Canned Wisdom #1

Canned Wisdom – Introduction

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Today was a beautiful, but cold day.

In the writing communities I’m part of, the discussion about The Rules of Writing, keeps popping up at irregular intervals. The general consensus at the moment seems to be that there aren’t really any rules, but that there are plenty of advice of varying quality.

The way I see it part of the issue with a lot of these pieces of writing advice is that they’re summed up in short catchy phrases that cut out a lot of the nuance.

The most common example of this is probably Show, Don’t Tell. It’s not a bad piece of advice as such, but there’s a lot more to it than what’s said in these three word. For starters, it doesn’t tell you why you shouldn’t tell, and it doesn’t explain what’s meant by show (or tell).

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I went for a walk…

That isn’t something I will go into any detail about today. It’s just an example to illustrate the problem with The Rules of Writing.

I’m bringing this up because I want to do a series of post with my own take on some of the more common writing rules. It stems from something I’ve done on instagram for a few weeks, where I post pictures with a few words on writing written upon them

Again, these are short sentences, just like what I said was part of the problem. What I’m trying to do is phrase my advice in such a way that it requires the reader to stop and think about it.

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…and I saw some horses.

The pictures are nice (even if it’s me saying so myself), but instagram doesn’t really leave much room for elaboration, and I often find I’m fond of elaborating. To this end I’ll begin sharing my advice-images here on the blog as well.

I’ve decided on the title Canned Wisdom for this series, because in a way that’s what it is. Each image is a can that holds a little bit of wisdom. It’s small and easy to grab hold of, but it’s also a can of worms in that once you’ve opened it, it’s hard to put all of the contents back inside.

To start with, here’s a piece of rather generic advice. It’s not related specifically to writing, and it really isn’t particularly complicated – at least not in the way I just described above. It’s an example of what I’m doing though:

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I’m well aware that there are countries with very strict censorship laws, and where art is forbidden or restricted.

That’s it.

When I first posted this, I made sure to point out that this advice is to be taken in the context of impostor syndrome, which is something I was reflecting on a lot at the time.

This is for those of us who want to make things, and who can make things, but who worry that we’re not doing it right or aren’t good enough, or that others will think we believe we’re better than them.

In short, it’s for those of use who worry and overthink, and who let that worry be an obstacle we struggle to overcome.


There is also a certain symbolism in putting this text on top of a picture of a cup of fancy coffee, but that’s a different topic of discussion.

Canned Wisdom – Introduction

My Book is Done

Front Cover - OnlineTo be honest, the book’s been done-ish for a while now, and the paperback version has been available for purchase for over a week. However, it’s not until last night that I uploaded the last and final version of the book, both for the ebook and paperback versions.

I sent out print copies of my book to friends, family, and beta readers. When my friend D got hers she tore into it with a vengeance, and she discovered plenty of things I’d missed. I thought my sister had caught it all when she sent me a list of well over forty different things she wanted me to consider.

Turns out that wasn’t all of it.

D identified an issue with my comma usage that both I and my sister had missed. She also located all instances where I’d got my commas wrong throughout the entire story. That’s a whole lot of work, and I’m both impressed and grateful.

I’d have been happy releasing the book in the state it was in, but now that I got these issues pointed out I went ahead and changed most of them. In a handful of places I kept the incorrect punctuation for artistic reasons.

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This picture is just here to add some life to the page. It’s got nothing to do with my book.

There were other issues as well, but I won’t bore you with the details. The main point is that I’ve now fixed or considered all of the errors that were pointed out to me, and that I’ve uploaded the final version of the story.

Then, once that was done and the paperback version had cleared the review, I uploaded it again because of a typography error on one of the first pages.

That’s the last of it though. This time I really believe I won’t be making any more changes to the book. I may change the category keywords or the blurb, but that’s another matter.

The final (!) version of the book can be found on Amazon here (US) and here (UK)

My Book is Done

Last Chance for Free Books

The free book giveaway I’m taking part in ends today. There’s a total of 35 books taking part and you can download them for free from this page. Some of the downloads are previews, like mine, while others are complete stories. There are even a few story collections.

Go ahead, get it while it’s still there.

EDIT: Looks like the creator of the giveaway forgot to set an expiration date so it’s still going. I’m taking my book down on Sunday the 28th though.

If you’re just finding my blog for the first time, my book is called Emma’s Story and it’s the one with the trees and snow on the cover (see below). It’s not the full story though, just the first four chapters. I’m hoping it will be enough for readers (that’s You) to get a feel for my writing style and to get an idea of what the story is about.

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The style is probably a little bit out of the ordinary, and not everyone will like it. The narration switches back and forth between two different kinds of voice. There’s a close third person voice written in past tense, and there’s a distant omniscient voice written in present tense.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, download the free preview and check it out. You’ll either love it or hate it.

Obviously I want you to like it, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. In that way, I’m kind of happy I was able to give the book away like this. It’s an opportunity to show off the story to potential readers without them having to make a commitment to buying it.

Imagine you buy a book you think sounds interesting and then the style it’s written in just doesn’t work for you at all. One of my beta readers told me the style felt condescending to them, and they’re probably not the only one. Other beta readers really enjoyed it though, so I kept the style the way it is.

If you already checked out the preview, or if you’re curious about it after just reading about the different styles. Let me know in the comments.

If you need a little more convincing, here’s the full blurb from the book’s pre-order page on Amazon:

Emma wants what all young anfylk women want, a burrow in the village and a family to fill it with life – and she could have it. Her best friend Torkel has proposed. He’s the only one for her and he’s first in line for the only available burrow in their small hillside village.
It should be easy, but it’s not. Torkel is a dreamer and a scoundrel. A self-styled huntsman and adventurer, with no real grasp of what it means to be a father and a husband.
But time is ticking, and the longer the burrow lies empty the weaker the village’s spirit gets. When an angry bear comes down from the mountains to terrorize their forest the villagers are unable to ward it off on their own.
To seek aid, Emma must travel farther than she’s ever been on her own before. A journey in search of the help her village needs, and the answers her heart desires.
While she’s gone, Torkel has his own ideas for how to impress Emma and make her like him enough to be his wife, completely missing the point. There’s a reason she has a hard time making up her mind…

Okay, so that’s a bit of a chunky blurb, but it does sum up the essence of the story in an honest way without giving away too much.

 

 

Last Chance for Free Books

Breathing Again

It’s been a strange week. I published a book.

I’ll talk about it, but first a soundtrack, in case you’re not already listening to something:

Like I wrote about in my two previous posts I got the final cover image for my book. I spent the remainder of the day tinkering with the layout of the print version, and then, at two in the morning, I accidentally published it – two weeks earlier than planed (link).

In all honesty, it was a little bit overwhelming.

I didn’t expect the print book to go live right away, and I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. In a few years, or maybe even months, I’ll look back upon it and laugh, but right when it happened it was really rather stressful. All kinds of questions I hadn’t thought about and didn’t have answers for rushed through my head.

Was this good or bad? Did I do something wrong? What happens now? How is the print quality? What if I made some horrible mistake and have to make changes? On top of that there was that weird mix of panic and joy, worry and pride that comes with creating something of your own and putting it out for the world to see.

It’s a cool feeling, but it’s scary.

Our Slef
The ebook version still isn’t released until February though. That didn’t change.

I’ve had some time to calm down and think things over and collect myself now. I also have the next week off from work to chill and do some writing. I really need to get back into actually writing and not just worry about publishing and marketing.

Yes, it would be cool if it sold really well and I got rich from it.

No, I don’t realistically expect that to happen.

Yes, I have completely unrealistic expectations

No, I’m not going to stop dreaming.

However, I’m going to be aware that my expectations are way out of whack and I’m going to be ready for the disappointment when things don’t go as well as I hope. It’s part of life. I can’t let my setbacks put me down, and I can’t rein in my dreams.

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Wednesday morning when I got to work I discovered I’d put on different shoes.

I also took off work today and tomorrow. I’m feeling a bit under the weather – not enough to call in sick, but I really want some peace and quiet for a bit. I’ll try and tap out some words today, have a drink and some snacks and try to just enjoy the process of making shit up.

Then tomorrow I’ll try and get serious about the writing again. I’m close to finishing the second draft of part two in my Lost Dogs series. The current chapter needs a near complete rewrite, and will require a few changes to part one as well as some changes to earlier chapters in this part, but I believe the story as a whole will benefit from it.

After that, the next one and a half chapters will probably just need a little bit of editing and then that draft is done.

Also, time to start playing around with cover images for the first book. I really have a hard time figuring out what to go for there. It’s about a werewolf wrestler in a great city just where the desert meets the sea.

I guess I’ll just have a cup of coffee instead.

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Also, I got the proof copy of the book today. Three of my friends already got theirs on Thursday. The colours are slightly washed out, but overall I’m happy with the book. It feels good to hold, and the pages are easy to read.

I could have reduced the font size a little and probably reduced the number of pages by a bit. The book would have been cheaper, but not by much, and it would have been thinner, which would have made it feel cheaper too. In short. I’m happy with how it turned out.

I won’t read it again though. I’ve read it too many times already!

Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow…

Breathing Again

Cover Reveal

Front Cover - OnlineTwo posts in a day?

Yes!

The paperback  version of Emma’s Story went live on Amazon (US, UK) just a few hours after the previous post. As promised, it’s time to share the cover image.

It’s painted by my friend Åsa, and she did an amazing job of it despite all of my contradictory suggestions and ideas.

In the end, this image fits two of the most important elements of the story: the bear looming ominously in the background, and Emma racing through the forest in her horse-drawn sled.

I’m trying to describe the feeling of looking at this image and I’m having a really hard time finding the words. It’s the cover image for my first book. I love it, but I’m also a little bit overwhelmed by the whole thing.

It’s finally happening. I published a book. It’s unreal.

I will probably have to sit down and have a proper think about it over the next few days and then write a better, more thought-out post about it later on.


Lastly I’d like to point out that the image in this post is the original one I uploaded for the print version. In the preview on the Amazon store page it looks a bit washed out, and it’s in lower resolution, but once it’s printed it should look more like this.

It’s so new I haven’t even received my proof copy yet.

Edit: I also added an entry for my book to goodreads.com, here.

 

Cover Reveal

I Accidentally Published My Book

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This morning’s coffee, from where I’m writing this, except now the cup is empty.

No, I don’t have a link for where to buy it just yet, but it won’t be long – a few days at most. The reason for the delay is that before the book becomes available for purchase Amazon has to review and approve it, which can take up to 72 hours.

It’s on it’s way though. Soon…

So how did I publish my book by accident? Isn’t that something I should have put some thought into and planned carefully?

Yes, yes it is, and I have, mostly.

The eBook version of my book is currently up for pre-order and is still set to be released on the 2nd of February. I have a few promotions scheduled and they’re still going ahead as planned.

What I didn’t realise is that KDP (the publishing service) doesn’t provide any pre-order functionality for paperback versions.

Old cover gone
The old cover image. I’ll probably use it for promos still, but it’s good to finally have the real one.

Yesterday I got the final cover image for the book. I was really excited about it (I still am), and I spent the entire evening – and well into the night – setting up the book for print. This would be enough for a blog post on its own, as I made some interesting mistakes and learned a few things for the future.

The important thing is I got it done and at a little before two in the morning I had approved the preview of the print on demand version of the book. I sorted out the pricing for the various Amazon market places, and I clicked the Save & Publish button.

After that I just sat there staring at the screen.

It slowly dawned on me that I hadn’t set a date for the book to be available, and there hadn’t been anything about it being published at the same time as the eBook. A little bit of searching and a few questions to people in the know soon confirmed there really is no pre-order for paperbacks.

When I clicked that button it was the signal for Amazon to start the process of reviewing the book for publishing. Once they’ve checked that it fulfils all of their requirements the book will be available for purchase.

This wasn’t what I’d planned, but now that the ball is in motion I’ll roll with it (pun intended). Someone told me they release the paperback early and treat it as a soft-launch before their eBook goes live. They use it as a way to try and get some reviews in time for the main launch, and I think I’ll do the same.

Once the link to purchase the book is available I’ll tell my friends about it and badger them into reviewing it for me. Also, I’ll obviously share it here too.

But what about the cover image?

Yeah, it’s done. I’ve got it. It’s amazing. Even then, I’ll still wait until the paperback can be purchased to share it here. Just a little longer. A day or two. Until then, here’s a teaser image with a quote from the book using the back cover image as a background:

No wind blows. Trees stand tall and silent around her – black pillars rising out of a grey carpet of snow.A night wears no colour.Far above, in the depths of the skies, stars sing the

 

I Accidentally Published My Book