Book Research: Sometimes Google isn’t enough

Hi, guys!

We all know writing requires research, sometimes into unexpected subjects. I never thought my writing would require calculating space travel times and learning how bears show affection.

But here we are.

But there are things we need to research that can’t be found in a half an hour on Google.

Over the years, I’ve indulged quite a few hobbies. I’ve always been that person who got interested in what her friends were interested in. I never had my own thing (didn’t have the guts to) until recently. I’ve been writing creatively for over a decade and a half, but only recently did I begin to take it seriously.

And now, I’m grateful for all those other hobbies and still intend to collect a few more.

Because some things just need to be experienced firsthand.

For instance, before I ever picked up a bow, I assumed that the arm pulling back on the bowstring would get tired first. Nope. The other one does. It still has the tension of the bow being drawn, plus it’s holding the weight of the bow straight out from your body. Under tension.

Before ever setting foot into a garage, I never thought about the unbelievable strain working on a lowered car puts on your back. It’s much more comfortable to just plant your feet real fuckin’ wide and bring yourself down low enough to lean on the fender (with a microfiber cloth between you and the car…You don’t want to scratch the paint, you monster.)

Before I cleaned a fish for the first time, I assumed breaking a neck would be a simple trick of leverage. *shakes head* Nope. I’m pretty strong, and I struggled, hard.

Now, I do have a thin layer of insulation (thank you soda and candy) but I have trouble finding non-sweatshirt material jackets that fit me because my fucking arms are too big for women’s jackets. But I still had to hand that fish off to someone stronger and more experienced. I did clean it afterward, though, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Before getting into manual labor, I never truly knew the meaning of “farm strong,” because yes, it’s a fucking thing. Outdoorsy, hunting/fishing/farming types are probably pretty fucking strong, even if they have a belly from home-cooked goodies and beer. Because they have to be.

And while we’re at it, factories do not work the way you think. In theory, they should be streamlined and clean and smooth running, but they’re run for profit. Anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be fixed, won’t be.

Running a machine with a broken or malfunctioning part means that other parts have to be made to function in ways they aren’t meant to in order to pick up the slack. Which causes a domino effect of quirks and other malfunctions, and gives each machine their own unique “personalities.”

Before getting into video games, I didn’t realize Console vs. PC is a thing in the gaming world, with a lot of elitism involved. I also never realized that pre-built, store-bought gaming computers are never going to be as good as what can be built by the gamers themselves. So they build them, upgrading parts every so often or just building from scratch every few years.

To anyone who isn’t tech savvy (i.e. me), 3d printers can seem like magic. And just like magic, there are so many ways it can go wrong. Machinery malfunctions and improperly heated beds, errors or missing chunks in G-code, prints not sticking to the bed, filament breakage or clogging…The list goes on.

Drawing can be unbelievably messy if you’re using charcoal. And believe it or not, drawing a naked model in a room full of people…not awkward and certainly not sexual.

My point is, these aren’t things I learned from Google. These are things that came from personal experience.

They’re little quirks of doing something that aren’t strictly necessary in a generic how-to guide, but they make the experience human.

You don’t have to be an expert at everything your characters do. But maybe give their interests a shot.

(The legal ones, anyway. I don’t need any lawyers coming for me saying I encouraged their clients to try whatever they did.)

At the very least, ask someone who does those things. There are tons of real people in writing groups online, and stuff like this is where the massive Facebook groups, like Fiction Writing, really shine.

That’s where I learned that cremations of obese people can result in grease fires that get the fire department called over the amount of smoke. The former mortician answering questions in the group noted a preference to cremate larger people at night, for that reason.

So don’t spend every second of your life hunched over your keyboard. You need to experience things in order to write the little details that make your characters more realistic.

You need to live and be a well-rounded human being in order to write characters that seem real and well-rounded.

So get out there and try a new hobby. Your characters (and your readers) will thank you for it.

Now, if you haven’t noticed, we’re getting closer and closer to the release of World for the Broken. April 21st is just around the corner, barely over two weeks away.

If you haven’t preordered, you totally should. (You can do so here: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

I’ll be posting a special blog this Wednesday containing the ENTIRE first chapter. So, if you want a sneak peek before you order your copy or if you’ve already ordered and want to read a bit ahead of time, you’ll get your chance in a couple of days.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Genre snobbery (aka literary elitism) and why it’s a crock of shit

Hi guys!

Genre snobs are (unfortunately) common. I don’t mean people who prefer a specific genre, btw. I mean the people who think every genre outside of their own preferred genre is garbage. They have a tendency to put other writers and readers down, saying that they read nothing but fluff, because let’s face it, their genre is the only meaningful one.

I’ve seen a lot of genre snobs in the past few weeks. Now, part of that is because of the stories people have come forward with since I posted about this on social media last month. So many people have encountered this problem, and it is absolutely shocking.

But I’ve also encountered them personally, being told that “Romance is written by and for idiots,” which is crap. I love romance (writing and reading), and while I’m not the smartest person in the world, I’m not an idiot. Not by any means.

I’ve also heard that googling good dialogue will turn up mostly crime writers and that only dystopian, crime, or satire (or other similar genres/subgenres) can be used for profound writing.

I just can’t wrap my head around it.

The idea that only certain types of stories can be used to convey deep, meaningful concepts is absolute horseshit.

Want examples?

In my thriller novella, Annabelle, I tackle the topic of sexual assault and the fact that we need to speak up and do something about it. All while telling a compelling story.

In The Gem of Meruna (high fantasy romance, two genres literary elitists abhor), I explore death/grief, inner strength, and the effects of one corrupt, violent person on an otherwise peaceful community.

In Soul Bearer (also high fantasy romance), themes of oppression and prejudice abound, as does the importance of integrity.

World for the Broken (post-apocalyptic romance) hits just about every possible tough subject, exploring resilience and the darkness within humanity.

In Salt and Silver (dark supernatural high fantasy romance, so many genres that are looked down on by genre snobs), I pit emotion against intellect and perception of self against how others perceive us. I also look at religion and the afterlife (and how little we know about either).

The story I’m writing now, another dark high fantasy romance, explores nature vs technology, progress vs tradition, and the need for balance in our lives.

In short, every genre can express or explore important themes.

And you know why?

Because all stories, at their base, are about the human condition. All stories contain conflict, regardless of genre, pitting two or more sides against each other. The premise of that conflict, the depth of the story is up to the author.

Not the genre.

You can write about corrupt government in fantasy. You build the world, so it can be as fucked up as you want.

You can write about the effects of religion on society in supernatural novels. (I did in Salt and Silver. Sure, I made the religions up, but they draw parallels to real religions.)

Basically, you can write deep, meaningful content in any genre. You can also write fluff in any genre (even satire, even dystopian, even crime). Therefore, no genre automatically makes you a better, more profound writer.

I think the real difference between genre elitists and other writers has to do with their motives for writing, not their ability to solve philosophical debates.

Now, many people write to send a message or make a point. They have an opinion and want to use fiction to convey it. Which is fine. That doesn’t make them an elitist.

But literary elitists…always do that.

Because they have something to prove.

They write to show other people how smart they are. Obviously, if they can write a novel with tons of symbolism and “world changing” themes, they must be better than everyone else.

As long as they make their point, they can lord it over everyone else and act superior, even if shoving their philosophy down everyone’s throat hindered the story and led to a convoluted mess of words. And if you don’t like their book or their genre of choice, that just means you’re “too dumb to understand.”

Of course, that’s not the truth.

It’s just a defense mechanism to avoid listening to any criticism, constructive or otherwise. It’s cutting people off before anyone gets a chance to point out where they fall short. It’s (possibly) hiding deep-seated insecurities.

So if a genre snob is putting you down and saying your story will be trash because you write in a trash genre…don’t worry about it. Most of the time, the people who are absolutely convinced that they’re smarter than everyone else…are actually…not.

Personally, I’d rather write a solid story, anyway. I never go into a story for the sake of making a point. If it develops to include some deeper observation of our world, great. If not, that’s fine. I’m in it for the story, not the clout.

Now, to tell you all what I’ve been up to over the past week.

I designed and ordered book swag for World for the Broken! I’ll be sharing the designs with all of you later this week. I also ordered proof copies of the book, did a lot of research for release week, and made some decisions regarding marketing.

And I made some headway on my newest WIP. I’ve added a lot to it in the past couple weeks, so I don’t think an updated word count will be a spoiler for where characters get…broken.

I’m now at 32,663 words.

I need to get back into editing Where Darkness Leads. But that is a task for another night.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Style

Hey, guys!

So, I’m in several writing groups, and the big one on facebook (Fiction Writing, 90,000+ members) has had a lot of posts asking a pretty similar question, here lately. “I have an idea for a story, but there are already so many stories like this out there. Should I even bother writing it?”

Such a loaded question, but a very simple answer.

As long as you’re not just straight up stealing someone’s work, write your story. It won’t be like the other stories, because it’ll be yours, written with your voice, in your style.

Who gives a fuck how many werewolf stories there are, or how many accidental baby with a billionaire stories have been written. If you have an idea about an accidental baby with a billionaire werewolf, fucking go for it.

Because your individual writing style and voice will change it, and make it unique.

Individual writing styles vary so much that it’s insane. Some writers even use different styles for different types of stories.

So, as long as you have a clear style and voice, you can write whatever you want.

Seriously.

Whatever you want.

Writing style let’s you get away with some serious shit.

Hell, at one point in his short story, “The End of the Whole Mess,” Stephen King forsakes spelling, punctuation, and every rule of grammar. And without that section, the story would’ve been…meh.

With it?

The story was phenomenal. I think back to it frequently, even though I read it like 5 months ago.

I’m not going say why he does it, or when, because it’s a pretty major plot device. It MAKES the story.

But it happens. Every basic writing rule…gone. And because of the style the story was written in, not spelling anything properly or bothering with punctuation…it enhances the story rather than taking away from it.

Side note…the shit you want to get away with has to be intentional. Don’t just bury your head in the sand, and refuse to learn about writing. Don’t pretend rules don’t exist or apply to you.

Don’t be that cocky.

If you’re gonna break a rule, don’t just say, “That’s how I write,” and expect everyone to think it’s awesome. Lol. You need to have a reason, and an understanding of how it affects the story.

Now, if you want an example that doesn’t seem so unattainable (because Stephen King is pretty high up there), my personal writing style is meant to be like you’re in the mind of the character. It reads sorta like a mixture of thought and direct experience, even when I write in third person for the sake of clarity when switching points of view.

Therefore, it’s rife with sentence fragments and occasional repetition. Because people don’t think or experience things in perfectly composed sentences.

I use curse words and sarcasm. Since I write very naturally, it makes sense. People curse. People get snarky sometimes. It happens.

I use enough description to get the point across, but no more, and only stuff the character would notice. Writing the scenes in such a direct way means that the character isn’t going to pay attention to the type of fabric every other person’s clothes are made of, or the type of trees in the careful landscaping at someone else’s house. Not unless they’re a seamstress or landscaper. Maybe not even then, if their mind is otherwise occupied.

And I pack the stories with emotion and dark subjects. If the story calls for gore or violence, well, it’s gonna be in there.

Not everyone wants to focus on trauma or battle scenes. Not everyone wants curse words. (Clearly, I don’t mind them. Lol.)

The book I’m currently reading (Winterhued by E. H. Alger) is in a genre that I write in a lot (fantasy romance), but is nothing like my books.

It begs to be read in an old English accent. It’s got beautiful, flowery writing and rich description. So far, it’s stayed away from heavy battle scenes, and focused more on the interpersonal goings-on of a besieged castle.

Had I written about a besieged castle with knights and a princess and ladies-in-waiting, it would have been a very different book aimed at a different audience. But Alger wrote it, using a different style, and a different voice, and different ideas.

Not writing it because other people have written about castles and knights would’ve been silly and sad.

It’s beautiful, and there’s no substitute. The author’s voice, the author’s style, and individual spin on things are what make the book unique.

So, to sum up, if someone else wrote about a vampire that used to be a viking and is also an angel (yeah, seriously, it’s been done. It’s a seven book series by Sandra Hill) that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.

Because it won’t be the same story.

Write what you want, even if someone else wrote a story about the same general principal.

So. Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- I haven’t read that series by Sandra Hill, but I love the title for the last book. “The Angel Wore Fangs” is catchy as fuck.