The Maze Runner [Friday Fiction Favourites]

I saw a really cool movie trailer while waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy to begin in the cinema on Thursday. Then those magic words popped up…

Based on the best-selling novel

As I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE book-to-movie adaptations and the trailer looked like another one I’d truly enjoy. So, as a few other previews played, I grabbed my iPhone and snapped up a copy of The Maze Runner by James Dashner for Kindle. Obviously, I didn’t read the book right there in the cinema, but it made for an interesting weekend read.

I have to admit, I wasn’t captivated by the beginning. The book is slow to get off the ground. The premise is interesting, but I didn’t really find myself caring about the characters; perhaps because it’s almost exclusively a teenage male cast (and therefore typically a teenage male target audience – which as a adult female I most certainly am not). Perhaps it also had something to do with the odd, and unlikely amnesia the boys all experienced. The internal monologue of the protagonist harped on about the amnesia as if the author was trying very hard to convince readers that the specificity of the characters amnesia wasn’t implausible. Basically, I found myself a little frustrated in the early stages of the book.

I think another thing I found frustrating was that it seemed to take quite a long time for “stuff” to “happen”. The kid is hauled up in the box, it’s terrifying, no memory, we get that. It’s enough of a hook to make us wonder why so we’ll hang with it to find out. Next day a girl comes up and that’s never happened before (according to the other boys, but the POV character being new really doesn’t find it any big deal), but then the book takes several chapters to really get to the action. The setting is detailed, the strange language given some life, and the general day-to-day world of the story unfolds with very little drama.

Thankfully, the latter half of the book does pick up. We’re given a firm sense of “the bad guys”, given face by the ugly machines that were difficult to truly picture because, as a blend of oozy/fleshy/blob and sharp pointy needles and metal, the creatures never really sharpened in my mind. But we’re also given a sense of the greater evil, and finally begin to empathise with the boys. Lab rats, clearly, but motivated and proactive despite their situation.

By the end of the book I found myself enjoying it. In the final chapters I was turning the pages to find out what happens next where in the beginning I kept reading from sheer stubborn determination not to give up since I’d already mentioned my plans to read and review it. The trouble is, the book ends with a clear sense of the sequel, but I’m not leaping out to buy the next book. I would like to know what happens next, but I wasn’t spellbound by the writing and am not keen to wade through it again.

I am, however, still keen to watch the movie. Having read the book, it’s the kind of book I suspect lends itself to cinema better than print. A good director with a fair budget will hopefully draw out the magic in the story. The fact that it’s produced by 20th Century Fox gives it some real potential and from the trailer I can see the cinematography is spectacular. I think, as a movie, this one could be pretty cool. Check out the trailer for yourself and let me know what you think.

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

From The Archives: An Interview With The Acclaimed Author…

I stumbled across this pretty cool nugget while I was browsing the web last night. Can you believe I wrote this May 22, 2007!!! It’s amazing how much changed in the years between when I wrote this and when The Flight of Torque was finally published in June 2014.

Please note, this is entirely fictional. It’s was fun to play with the idea of being interviewed by someone famous as a “what if” or “someday maybe”. This was in response to exercise 15 from Page After Page by Heather Sellers. (Speaking of interviews, here’s one I really did give recently at Worlds of Wonderment!)

***

O: On The Book Club tonight we’re very lucky to have with us an acclaimed author known best for her fantasy series, “Torque”. she has been awarded for her fiction, non-fiction and yes, even poetry. Please put your hands together for the lovely, Rebecca Laffar-Smith.

[Audience goes wild as the famous author walks on stage and embraces Oprah then quiets as the two women sit and make themselves comfortable.]

O: Rebecca, it’s wonderful to have you with us. I understanding you’re promoting your new series which has been getting rave reviews. I’ve read it myself, finished it just last night in fact and I have to say, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. It’s really incredible. Tell me, what’s it like to write another best seller after the success of your last series?

R: [smiles shyly] Wow, thank you Oprah, it’s really wonderful to be here again. Actually I love this new series and I’m so excited the first book has finally reached readers. I’ve been getting so many letters from readers who loved the first series and wanted to know what I was working on next. I have to admit I was a little worried this new direction might alienate a few of my readers but it actually seems like more and more of the books are selling. I understand HarperCollins have had to go into their third run, the demand has been just amazing.

O: [nodding] Yes, the last time you were here we had only just discovered you after the release of “The Flight of Torque“. That was the first of the series. Did you ever think the books would be so popular?

R: [chuckles] Gosh, no. I remember when I was writing Flight of Torque I had so many doubts. It was a rough year and I went in so many wrong directions I often wondered if I’d ever finish the book. Even then the thought of its success was just a spark amongst the tinder of my imagination. It hadn’t taken off. I mean I joked about Jessica Alba staring in the movie, but when it actually happened, wow, it was just incredible.

Now with this second series I wanted to delve a little deeper with the character aspects of my new cast. I wanted to get a little more ‘real’ with my characters and show normal people being called to do extraordinary things. I have to admit that Tori, well, we could hardly call her ‘normal’. [chuckles as audience chuckles] I know, she’s practically a super-heroine but I wanted to branch away from having characters that weren’t completely relateable in modern day. I also wanted to explore the celtic/pagan branches of my own heritage and take a step backwards into medieval times. I think those who loved Torque will find a whole new way of seeing the world with the new series.

O: Well, I read your book and our audience tonight have ALL been given a copy. Yes, yes, check your little bags under your chairs, you all have a copy of Rebecca’s book and I’m sure you’ll all love it as much as I did. [Audience shuffles to dig up their goodies with oh's and ah's. I'm smiling.] But tell me, what can we expect from the rest of this series?

R: Oh, I couldn’t really go into that Oprah, it would be telling… [winks] But what I can say is that one of our favorite characters has a revelation no one could possibly guess. In fact, [appears to ponder] I’ll give five-hundred dollars if one of my fans can email me [email address appears on screen] with what you suspect is going to happen and guess correctly. [emails start going wild before the show even finishes]

These new characters are so embedded in their world and each is sparked with their unique brand of humanity that it is going to be interesting reading as they come up through the conflicts, some of the past, some of the present. They’re going to be facing inner demons but ultimately they’ll grow into remarkable people. They have their own story to tell and even I’m continuing to learn from them day after day as I write.

O: I know you have the next few books of this series but are there any plans for beyond that? And what else are you working on outside of the novels?

R: I’m glad you asked actually. Yes there are plans beyond this latest series. I wanted to work on a book that’s focused more on spirituality and the connection within ourselves. We are coming into an age where people are more in tune with their higher power and their importance in the reality of the universe and I wanted to capture that. In a way all of my books connect with the power of people, particularly the self power that every person possesses but I wanted to portray that on a grander scale.

I’ve also been publishing more of my poetry and non-fiction articles. I have my column as you all know and I’m delighted to announce that it’s finally reached international syndication which means readers all over the world will be able to share in the topics I cover every month. I have a new book coming off the presses as we speak. It’s another poetry anthology, this one focusing on the suffering involved with terminal illness. Part of the proceeds of that book go to the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society who do amazing things for the sufferers of XP and their families.

O: That is a wonderful cause and I understand it’s important to you for personal reasons. Your brother was diagnosed with the terminal condition and died at a young age. [I'm nodding] All of your books sound like they are very close to you. Do you draw from your own experiences?

R: [smiles] Well I’ve certainly never turned into a snake, but I suppose in a way I try to use myself and my own experiences to deepen the qualities of my characters. In a way I also wanted the opportunity to express my beliefs and to reach out to anyone who’s ever suffered in life. Each of my books focuses strongly on a deep truth that I wanted to share with my readers. In The Flight of Torque it was all about the importance of having faith in yourself. Without that Tori and Lucas could never have been the amazing people they were. I’ve been learning, along with my characters I suppose, and it’s wonderful to be able to share that experience with my writing. It’s such a vital element of who I am and how my world is shaped.

O: [nodding, audience enthralled] Thank you so much for talking with us tonight, Rebecca.

R: [smiling] Thank you for having me, Oprah.

O: I’m sure we’ll see more of you in the future. [turns to camera/audience] If you want to get a copy of any of Rebecca’s books they’re on sale now at all major bookstores or you can order them online. You can also order copies of, “Born To Say Goodbye”, which is set for release later this week, remember part proceeds go to the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society and you can make donations to support their cause directly to their website, via this number or through Rebecca’s website. [phone number and web address flash on screen]

I hope you’ll all read her books and come to see the wonderful insight this lovely young woman brings into the world. She conveys the depth of human emotion and spiritual connection in enchanting stories that delight the mind and are sure to reach out to all readers. Thank you for joining us with another book club.

***

The interesting thing about this is that seven years later I still have these plans for works I’d like to complete. Some of them are already in production. The Flight of Torque took a great deal longer to write than I expected, but I’ve grown so much in those years that I feel like I’m finally ready to launch my career. I’m developing discipline, focus, and strategies to get things accomplished.

*chuckles* That was pretty fun. I challenge you all to go interview yourself on Oprah. *wink* That was exercise 15 from Page After Page by Heather Sellers. Interview yourself as if you’re an already famous writer, discuss your future projects, and what you would like to write about. Feel free to share your interview (or a link to it) in the comments below. I’d love to read it!

A Brief Glimpse of the Snowflake Method [Friday Fiction Favourites]

I just blazed through this pretty clever book, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. I mean blazed, I opened it for the first time a few hours ago and devoured it in one brief sitting. It was enjoyable, and informative. The lightness of voice and the unique fictional non-fiction kept me fascinated.

Using a cute fictional fable with some of our favourite fairytale characters, Ingermanson breaks down his Snowflake Method for planning/outlining a novel. It’s really quite brilliant, and I was surprised at how easily his steps resonated with my own process. I could see how the method can make the initial planning stages simpler to enact. It takes the guesswork out of how to go from initial idea to fully-fleshed and detailed story concept.

If you’re a pantser you’ll HATE the Snowflake Method (but may still love the book). I think planners will love both. If anything, it takes planning to whole new levels and gives us a solid outline that takes the guesswork out of writing the first draft.

The Snowflake Method breaks down into ten tasks.

  1. Define your Category (Genre), Target Market, and 30-word Elevator Pitch/Story Sentence
  2. Expand your Elevator Pitch into a One-Paragraph Summary
  3. Summarise each of your characters:
    Role, Name, Goal, Ambition, Values, Conflict, Epiphany, One-Sentence, One-Paragraph
  4. Expand your One-Paragraph Summary into a One-Page Synopsis
  5. Create One-Page Synopsis for each of your characters
  6. Expand your One-Page Story Synopsis into a Four-Page Long Synopsis
  7. Create detailed Character Bibles for each of your characters
  8. Create a List of All Scenes
  9. Define Proactive or Reactive Elements for Each Scene
    Proactive: Goal, Conflict, Setback / Reactive: Reaction, Dilemma, Decision
  10. Write the first draft based on the outline of each scene

I’m looking forward to putting the technique into practice with Birth of the Sacred Mother. I’m in the early planning stages now and have kept fumbling with my outline. As I read, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, I could see where my weaknesses came from. Like Goldilocks, I’ve been a little shy about fleshing out my antagonists. Now, over the coming days I plan to take the ten-step approach one step at a time and see how it works for me.

I highly recommend this book. Even if you don’t use the method exactly as described, the fiction element makes for a delightful story and the book is a very quick read. Not to mention the fact that the Kindle version is only a couple of bucks. You’ll get ideas and begin to see your own stories differently. You may find there are aspects of the method you love and can use. Ingermanson (or rather Baby Bear) recommends adapting a Creative Paradigm that suits you. That’s what I’ll be doing with the Snowflake Method because I know there are parts I’ll find very useful, but I also still love The Hero’s Journey and that will play into my outline. It’s about adopting what works for you and adapting your own personal technique, one that heightens your efficiency and makes it easier to tell a great story.

The Elevator Pitch: Nailing you novel in a single sentence.

Defining your novel in 30 words or less is incredibly challenging but it’s a great marketing tool and an even better outlining tool. The elevator pitch forces you to coalesce your story idea, to crystallise it into a single, sharp image with a compelling protagonist, a powerful antagonist, a vivid setting, and a captivating twist. It should give your reader a sense of genre and target market. It should also clearly define your story so you have a firm sense of what your book is about.

I know, you’re wondering how do you get all that information into a single sentence? It does take some practice and it does take some crafting. But that’s part of what makes elevator pitches so powerful.

I actually had more trouble nailing down The Flight of Torque than I have its sequel Birth of the Sacred Mother. I have three elevator pitches for FoT:

1. In this inspiring urban fantasy, blood-charmed heiress, Tori, and her wingless guardian angel, Lucas, defy the ministrations of the sinister cult that transformed her into a monster.

2. When a blood-charmed heiress is irrevocably transformed by a sinister cult, her wingless guardian angel learns that keeping her safe comes second to keeping her alive.

3. In this inspiring urban fantasy, blood-charmed heiress, Tori, is irrevocably transformed by a sinister cult. Her guardian, Lucas, is helpless to save her. Now something dark and primal slithers within.

All three are good, but none of them are great. I like the third best because of the phrase: “Now something dark and primal slithers within”, which I also use on my back-cover blurb, but number three is also broken into three separate sentences instead of one single sentence. Number one is good, but I don’t like the term “monster” because that’s not really what she becomes. I also have trouble with “wingless” in both one and two because the cover clearly shows he has wings, and while there is portion of the book where he is wingless, he isn’t always. These are all sorts of things to consider when writing your elevator pitch, getting it “just right” requires quite a lot of thought and effort.

The thing to notice about all three of these pitches is that they all introduce Tori and Lucas (the protagonists) and the cult (the antagonist). All three also define the problem (transformed into a dark and primal creature/monster). They also all give a firm sense of the genre, with one and three stating it outright and two leaving the content to allude to genre. Using powerful descriptive terms for the characters gives readers a sharp sense of who the book is about, a “blood-charmed heiress”, a “sinister cult”, a “guardian angel”. Readers are left with a clear sense of who the characters are. The phrasing also gives them a sense of setting.

Today I wrote the elevator pitch for Birth of the Sacred Mother:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

I feel very good about this pitch. It crystallises the work for me, and I think that is another great thing about a well-crafted elevator pitch. A great pitch motivates the work. When I read that sentence, it throws me into the story and compels me to get to work. The main job of an elevator pitch is for marketing, to compel readers (or agents or editors) to want to read your story. But in the early stages, during the planning and outlining, I think working out the pitch helps give a writer a clear sense of their story. It is a foundation to come back to, and one that can guide the story because it is ultimately the story’s root.

Now I’ve got a strong elevator pitch, I’ll evolve that concept into a one-page summary. A one-page summary helps to develop a clearer sense of how the story will unfold. I’ll also be fleshing out the characters in more detail.

This early stage, just before the draft comes together is really exciting. But it’s also difficult because I have a few different projects in mind at the moment so I’m frequently feeling torn between them. I’m very excited about all of them and would like to get two of them off the ground as soon as possible. They are shorter projects so shouldn’t take as long to write as Birth of the Sacred Mother, but every minute I spend on them delays this book and now The Flight of Torque has readers there may be people waiting on the next book! Dilemma!

Speaking of people waiting on the next book, that’s very much reason for me to wrap up this blog post. But if you have any questions about writing, about the books, about the craft of writing and planning/outlining a novel or short story, leave them in the comments below or catch me on Facebook.

Now available for Kobo and Google Play and Apple iBooks

For those not sure if The Flight of Torque is something you’ll enjoy, I’ve put together a free sample. The Flight of Torque Sample gives you the prologue and first two chapters to enjoy. See if you become immersed in the story and want to find out how it all unfolds. This is a risk-free way to find out if The Flight of Torque is your kind of read.

The free sample is currently available free on Kobo, Google Play, and Apple iBooks. The sample is also listed on Amazon but not currently free. I need some awesome people to do me a huge favour and click the “tell us about a lower price” option from the Amazon page. Report the Kobo URL so that Amazon will price match the freebie version. Unfortunately, little ninjas don’t do this part of the process and it’s tricky to get the free listing with Amazon.

If you love the free sample, then you can pick up the full book from Amazon or sign up to be notified when the full book is available in your favourite eReader. I’ll release to other devices based on reader demand so even if you picked up a Kindle copy of the full book, update your reader details with your preferred format to increase its priority.

That’s it from me for now. Enjoy your reading!


Check out the sample for Free with Apple iBooks!

Currently not listing as free. Please use the 'tell us about a lower price feature' and give them the Kobo URL below.

Check out the sample of The Flight of Torque for Free on Kobo!

Check out the sample of The Flight of Torque for Free on Google Play Books

The Dream Engine [Friday Fiction Favourites]

The Dream Engine by Sean Platt and Johnny B. TruantImagine experiencing a world around you that no one else can see. Imagine having visions of a boy calling you into another reality. Imagine losing the edges of your mind and discovering that the real world was an illusion tangled in a conspiracy.

This is the world Eila Doyle, a 15 year old resident of Waldron’s Gate, finds coming to her when her mind should be in the empty, quiet rest of sleep. As a Builder, she is proud to be involved in manifesting Waldron’s Gate innovations, but she never questioned where those inspirations come from. Never, until she started doing what no one in Waldron’s Gate ever did, dream.

The Dream Engine is a magical book that explores what it is to believe and the right of individuals to own their dreams and creativity. Follow young Eila as she begins to question what her society has always held to be true, and to experiment with bucking the norm in pursuit of her own truth. What is on one level a touching, thrilling, and entrancingly captivating read transforms into a deeper message that speaks to today’s readers, young and old.

Via Fiction Unboxed, I had the joy of watching Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (with David Wright) breathe this book into being. I’m still in awe with the way this book went from nothing to published in just 30 days! Enjoy the book in its first days from initial story brainstorming through early drafts and compare to the final published version. With daily blog posts, hours of story meeting video footage, multiple draft documents, and even live early draft readings by Sean, Fiction Unboxed is amazing to experience every step of the way. [These are not affiliate links; I receive no compensation for making this recommendation; I recommend it purely because I love it and think other writers would gain a lot from the unboxing.]

Unfortunately, I did find a few errors in the book which come purely from the rush with which the book was produced. It speaks to the value of taking the required time to edit. But the errors are minor and do little to detract from the pure magic and pleasure the story provides.

Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think of it in the comments. What core messages did you take away while reading? What do you think it would be like to live in a world where no one ‘dreams’? Would you want to keep taking Crumble to maintain status quo or throw it away and experience the world as it really is, nightmares and dreams, a balanced reality?

Read a great science fiction or fantasy book lately? Recommend it to Rebecca for a Friday Fiction Favourite or write your own review!

It’s ALIVE!!! “Your book is available in the Kindle Store!”

Wow! Now THAT is an email that I’d love to see in my inbox again and again. It was such a thrill.

After years working on this book, months of editing, weeks of nail-biting while it was with my pre-readers, a week of editing based on pre-reader feedback, and days of working out formatting and figuring out Kindle and CreateSpace submission process, I hovered over the ‘Publish’ button, terrified but also thrilled and really, really excited.

I drew a deep breath, clicked, and then did a weird little shiver and chair dance. It was submitted, and now I had to wait while it went through the review process.

Before reaching that point, I had done a tonne of research and laboured over every formatting detail. There are 20 copies of various FoT draft .mobi versions on my Kindle from testing it across multiple devices (my iPad, my iPhone, my MacBook). I was confident that I’d done everything right. Still, it was my first, so I was cautiously optimistic but also nervous.

Then the moment arrived. That email. I clicked the link and there it was. My book. My name. In all its Amazon glory.

Now, when you first publish, the Kindle version doesn’t automatically link to the paperback. I hadn’t come across that fact in my research so I went on a hunt to find out how to link them. Turns out it propagates by itself as Amazon’s little ninja nanites jump and flip around in the backend. No problem there. Yay!

So now you can get The Flight of Torque for Kindle or paperback. It’s part of Kindle Select so exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days. If you’d like the full book in your favourite reader, sign up here and add your preference to your reader details. I’ll let you know when it’s available. Meanwhile, you can read the free sample on your favourite device right now!

I hope readers love the book. I’m keen to hear your feedback so leave a review and/or drop me an email. I’m working hard outlining and planning the next in the Blood of the Nagaran series and your feedback may influence future books in the series.

This is just one of many milestones in self-publishing. Which milestones have excited you in your own publishing journey or which are you most looking forward to?

Paperback! 100 copies hot off the press!

FoT-Paperback-oncounterActually, they’re quite cool now. Beautiful glossy covers, all crisp and shiny. Clean, cream pages, nicely weighted and stylishly fonted with comfortably-sized text. On the back under the blurb is a bar code and inside are the copyright notice and National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry. In the back, sandwiching 30 chapters against the contents and dedication, is the acknowledgements and author bio.

I sent The Flight of Torque to CreateSpace printers on the 30th of June and ordered 100 copies for signing and local distribution. I don’t strictly “need” them until my launch party in November, so I cheaped on shipping. The shipping estimate said I could expect the books late August. A friend and fellow indie, Lizzie Midgley, had recently shared her troubles with Australia Post holding her books for several weeks after they arrived in the country, so I was prepared for a long wait.

Imagine my surprise when just three weeks later the courier rocked up with five large boxes. I dragged them inside, tucking them into the spare inches on the floor beside my bed, and eagerly sliced open the smaller box. I had ordered 100 copies and Amazon pack them 24 copies to a box so, 24, 48, 72, 96 – there were 4 copies in a box of their own. And that’s how I saw them, four shiny, new and with that ‘real book’ smell.

There is something magical about holding a book in your hands that you wrote yourself. Completion, pride, wonder. Wow! I finished it. “I wrote this!” It’s real.

So, now I’ve got copies if anyone would like one just contact me. They are $15 AUD each plus shipping. If you live Perth Metro, Western Australia, I’d be happy to drop it to you in person in exchange for a cuppa and a chat. I’ll gladly sign and/or inscribe copies that are ordered directly from me. Alternatively, you can order it from Amazon. You can also get the Kindle version for just 99c until July 31st.

Get a free sample of The Flight of Torque by Rebecca Laffar-SmithIf you’d like to try before you buy you can get a free sample on your favourite device!

*Please note the Kindle version may not be free, check the price and please use the “tell us about a lower price” feature to share the Kobo URL.

On Being Real Rather Than Profound

July 29

I’m having a slow, sleepy, and shivering start today. It’s a cold winter Sunday. It would be tempting to stay in bed but I did that yesterday and then never made it to my computer the whole day. So, total words written on any project yesterday. ZERO! Of course, that means today is an upward battle too.

What I was planning to write yesterday was a blog post. But I find myself leaning away from blogging because it feels like something I have to manufacture. It doesn’t feel real or even particularly honest when I spend a few hours honing an article for the blog. It also isn’t efficient because it’s not really driving up the traffic of the blog. Somewhere along the line things seemed to plateau out and my sporadicity, or perhaps the sheer boringness of my most recent efforts have done nothing to garner fresh interest.

Yesterday, instead of writing I did a lot of reading. The book I’m reading at the moment is Write. Publish. Repeat by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. I had just started reading the chapter about blogging. Now, I’ve had a blog for many, many years now. This one, The Craft of Writing Fiction, began as Writer’s Round-About way back in 2007. That’s 7 years of blogging experience with the writing topic alone. And I’ve fluctuated content a fair bit. But lately I haven’t been updating very frequently because I’ve been feeling like I need to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I need to write things that educate and inform. But the truth is, I just haven’t been inspired to do much of that.

Any yet, most mornings, before I get stuck into the nitty gritty of writing fiction, I take a few minutes to write a journal entry. Sometimes I add to that journal throughout the day with other writing snippets and thoughts that catch me as the process continues. These are easy, because I use these journals as a way to process my thoughts and so I’m writing them regardless of audience. In fact, I have dozens of journal entries I haven’t posted to the blog. And maybe that’s the problem.

In Write. Publish. Repeat., Sean and Johnny advocate simply telling your story in a very casual and commentary way. Rather than writing an Opus, simply being honest and real with the reader can be enough to engage interest on a blog (and indeed in any reader communication be it email or social media). Being human is much more interesting than being a text book.

Now, part of me knows that’s true. The fact that A Sax Outside My Window was such a popular post for so long is testament to the interest people have in the every day magic of life. The trouble is, the other part thinks, “people don’t care”. So, more often than not I’ve not posted up my journal entries on my blog.

But, perhaps I’m doing you a disservice by not. Recently my journal posts have included my thoughts, my excitement, and my stressors about self publishing. They’re not so much educational and informative, but they are real and immediate, in the moment, thoughts about the industry. Maybe you would be interested in those. I don’t know.

No matter what I do, I think going forward, it’s important that I make an effort to post something, anything, regularly. So, sometimes it’ll be those journal entries. I’d like to still write the occasional Opus, but I’m not going to hold myself to those as if they’re the only kind of quality writing worthy of being shared on this blog. Especially since some of the time they probably aren’t particularly ground-breaking anyway.

As good intentioned as I am about writing long, educational, informative, and interesting posts, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make them excellent. Sometimes it means I put off writing them at all. For example, I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post all week. My last update was on the 23rd. That’s six days ago. It’s a long time to be waiting until I’ve finally bit the bullet and written the blog post that’s sitting in my queue. I do however have journal entries for every day except yesterday and I could have posted those.

*sighs* Now I’m just rambling. One advantage of these – clearing the throat – journal entries is I normally start it as I settle at the computer and only have ten to fifteen minutes before my 6.30am writing session. Today I blew off my 6.30am start and it’s almost 7.30am already. I need to get back on track.

So, the decision? I’ll post up my journal entries in future, in lieu of feeling like I can only post if I’ve carefully crafted something phenomenal. Hopefully, from time to time I will still have phenomenal in me, and perhaps, sometimes I might even journal something profound. Let me know if that happens. Meanwhile, at least you’ll be able to peek inside my mind as it’s churning and maybe that’ll interest some readers. If there is anything in particularly you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment below or send me an email. I’d love to answer any questions you have or share on an experience I’ve had that might interest you.

The 3 C’s of a Synergistic Writer

As writers, we often face a very solo experience when we’re writing, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. Sure, we have our characters for company, but beyond that, there are three synergistic relationships for writers: community, collaboration, and commission. By incorporating these into our business model as a writer, we can stave off frustrations, depression, and inertia.

Community

The first of the three Cs is Community. I put it first because I feel it’s the most important. I’d like to say its the only non-optional C of the three, but the truth is, even community is optional, but without it you may find you, and your writing, loses a lot of heart.

Community is a spirit you can build around yourself. It’s the gathering of like-minded individuals in a way that brings them together as a greater whole. When you find, or create, your writing community, you discover friendships and motivation that power-up your writing experience.

One of the greatest community building things I did was become a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Municipal Liaison (ML). This volunteer position gives me an opportunity to work within the literary industry, to specifically build a writing community. From simply attending write-ins at my local library, I met a dozen fabulous local writers. But the following year my local council librarian and I joined with three other councils in my NaNo region to create the Write Along The Highway (WATH) project. Together we brought NaNoWriMo into several libraries along the highway and expanded the writing community we were building. This year we have seven councils involved. In collaboration with a writer I met through our NaNo events I am also introducing the OzNoWriMo Young Writers Program (YWP) into local schools. Through both programs we are expecting the biggest community growth to date.

Through my role as ML I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of writers across the state, and from other parts of the country and the world. I’ve also met with agents, editors, publishers, bookstore owners, and other industry experts. As the liaison I have a prominent role, but you don’t have to take on a similar role to enjoy your local community. Yes, it does supercharge your experience, but you still gain community simply by being a member within it.

Find local writers’ groups, look for local writer events, festivals and conferences, and join local notice groups that share industry information in the community. Many public libraries host a regular writers’ group for their community. Every group is different, so don’t be afraid to roam a little to find one that suits your tastes and current needs as a writer, or attend many and spread your opportunities for community a little wider. If you can’t find one that runs at a time you can attend, consider starting one, even if it’s just a regular write-in where you invite other writers in the community to join you for an hour or four of writing once a week, like I do with my Sunday Roaming Write-In.

Having a community of writers around you gives you a greater sense of your place in the world. It gives you like-minded individuals you can talk to about writing, people who really know, who understand, what it is like to be a writer. They face similar challenges and often have similar quirks, interests, and dreams.

Being around other writers who are actively writing helps fuel your motivation, it also gives you opportunities for learning through lectures and talks, and to explore new ideas, genres, styles, and techniques. By finding your writing community, you’ll make valuable friendships and exponentially empower your own writing. You might even find valuable relationships that turn into collaborative ventures.

Collaboration

When I first started The Flight of Torque, it was in collaboration with a friend I’d met online. I owe that book, and the three that will follow it, to him. While The Flight of Torque has very little resemblance to the ideas we initially forged together, our collaboration played a vital role in breathing life into an infant concept. It also gave me the courage and passion to push ahead with this story through the years of its ups and downs.

While that collaboration ended early, there are several writers I know who collaborate beginning to end through their projects. Their collaboration takes many different forms.

This month, I’m enjoying experiencing the collaboration of Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt as they work together on a new book. They’re doing something I think is very brave and magical. They’re bringing down the walls as they write by sharing their work every day. They record their collaborative story meetings on video, and they’re even collaborating with their community for some parts of the process. What we can see in the Fiction Unboxed project is the synergistic power of collaboration. Together, Sean and Johnny build a quality product by combining their strengths and offsetting their weaknesses inside a very healthy relationship.

In Sean and Johnny’s situation, you’ll see Sean takes the role of the primary ideas man. They both play story ideas together, but Sean takes those basic ideas and forms them into an outline that presents the story arcs. He also develops character sheets and defines the characters’ core essence for Johnny. Johnny then takes these bones and writes the first draft, he speaks directly to these characters that Sean created and from them draws out the real story that is hidden in the bones. He collaborates with Sean as the book progresses to discuss how the unfolding story is changing the outline. Sean meanwhile is keeping right on his tail, editing the pages as they’re produced each day.

One of the most powerful aspects of Sean and Johnny’s collaboration, is that when Johnny hits a snag in the writing process he can call Sean. Rather than spending hours or even days (or in my case months) trying to puzzle it out by himself, they are able to talk through the snag together in an hour and get Johnny back on track with the writing.

This isn’t the only way you can collaborate either. Sometimes, collaboration is as simple as having a very close friend to bounce around ideas. Sometimes it’s alternating scenes or chapters so you write half of the draft and your partner writes the other half (Morris Gleitzman and Paul Jennings did this with some of their books). Sometimes your collaborative partner comes in at the editing stage and is your fresh set of eyes.

For example, your pre-readers are collaborative partners. They’re invested in you and your book on a personal level and work with you to make it better. That’s what true collaboration is. They’re not in it for themselves, they’re in it for the story.

Commission

The people you commission are in it for themselves. Yes, they might be invested in your story because they value it as a product and you as a writer, (in fact I recommend only working with people who do value you and your product), but ultimately, they’re in it because working for you puts food on their table. These professionals are immensely valuable. Finding quality commission-based freelancers can significantly improve your writing and your book.

Although you do the hard slog of writing the book, you might find it makes sense to hire freelancers who specialise in particular skills in the industry. They can take on those jobs required to release your book into the waiting arms of the public.

For example, you might want to hire professional editors and proofreaders. These people focus on developing their skill with language. As the writer you can often be too close to the story to gain enough perspective to see all of its faults. I’ve been so close to my stories that I’ve completely missed seeing the word “She” when the word should have been “The”. We read what we think we wrote, rather than the words on the page. Commissioning professional editors and proofreaders gives you highly qualified eyes on your story, to help you polish it to a sparkling and professional shine.

You should definitely hire a professional cover artist unless you have exceptional artistic skills yourself. Your book’s cover is one of its first selling points. Despite the adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do. So make sure your cover design is one that will entice your target market to look a little closer and don’t be afraid to invest in this aspect of your book. It will payout tenfold.

Other professionals you might commission or that might work on a percentage of your royalties are agents, managers, and publishers. Before hiring these people understand exactly what services they’re offering and weigh up the expense against the time and energy it would take to do yourself. The same can be said for public relations and marketing experts. You can, and should, hire these people if you’d rather spend your time writing new books and don’t want to learn the grittier business-side of the industry. Having said that, understanding your business can save you a great deal of money in the long term so weigh up what you can do for yourself against the value of hiring others to do it for you.

Ultimately, every time you consider working with other writers and industry professionals you can look at how that relationship will work for you and your book. If there is potential for exponential, synergistic growth then the investment in time and money will be worth every penny. A solo writer can produce magical stories, but it’s together, through the power of We, that those words will perform to their greatest potential.