Friday, May 27, 2011

Decrease In Daily Word Limit

I’ve decreased my minimal writing word count from 500 to 300 words per weekday. I can’t seem to manage more at the moment, what with work and this wonderful amazing weather that beckons to go outside and “frolic”. I don’t feel good fighting myself up to 500 words when I’m always thinking about what I could be doing outside right now. Forcing myself like that is no fun, and I’m on no deadline but my own. So I decided that, for now, 300 words a day is enough. My 1500-word weekend-target will stay the same. Basically, I’m out 1000 words per week - but at the moment, it’s worth it. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kindle - My New Best Book Buddy

I’m excited. I ordered a Kindle, and it’s going to arrive today. Squeee!

I’ve been reading a lot lately; the last batch of books I bought all turned out to be amazing. I’m burning through the last one now - so, perfect timing to start downloading my TBRs onto my shiny new, pweeetty, pweciousss toy. German Kindle-edition books are still a little hard to come by, but since I mostly read in English - who cares?!

What I’m really excited about is trying out the Kindle-feature that reads the story out loud. Maybe I can use it to listen to the stories while driving my two hours to-and-from work every day. That will definitely be cheaper than audio-books, and the selection will be a lot bigger, too. I realize the computer voice is probably flat and very electronic, but I’m definitely going to try it.

I’ll still buy paper-books. That’s a given. Not every book on my wish list is to be had in Kindle-edition (yet), not even the English ones. And I love my over-burdened bookshelves, love adding more weight to their struggling boards. Makes for a wonderful library-vibe. This kept me from going for an e-reader for a long time, but it has so many advantages that finally I caved:

An e-reader saves…
1. Trees (no more paper).
2. The atmosphere (no more carbon dioxide emissions for shipping my books. Though I do realize that powering all the servers on which the ebooks are stored might even out that equation again).
3. My health (no more back aches from lugging at least three books around with me everywhere I go).
4. My sanity (I won’t have to wait for days or weeks before my book-order arrives).

Epic Win all around!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

No Boundaries

Oh. My. God. This is beautiful. 

Impressive, exhilarating and impressively exhilarating to any passionately creative person. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding Genre Niches

Great post on How To Find Your Niche In Urban Fantasy. A lot of people in the writing business are saying or predicting that Urban Fantasy is on the decline; there are too many vampires and werewolves and fairies already out in books or being written about, that it’s difficult to find a unique and fresh take on them. But Kevin Hearne, author of a new UF series, The Iron Druid Chronicles, makes a valid statement:

There are still plenty of niches in urban fantasy that need filling. To my knowledge, there are no gay or lesbian main characters; there’s a profound lack of gnomish heroes trying to make a difference in a world dominated by human giants; there are no troll girls who think there must be something more to life than guarding bridges, and so on. Go see for yourself; the ideas are out there, waiting for you in the bookstore, between the books that are already on the shelves, screaming in all the voices of the world’s mythology that they deserve some attention.”

There are so many other magical critters besides weres, vamps, shifters and fairies, waiting around in legends, myths and history. A lot of them sexy, disturbed and haunted as hell - a great premise for featuring in modern UF. After all: you can take the kid out of mythology, but you can’t take mythology out of the kid.

I think/hope I’ve managed to do so with my current work in progress…

Friday, May 6, 2011

Unlikeable Protagonists and Insignificant Stories

Driving to and from work every day, I like to listen to audio-books. I enjoy those way more than the incessant and uninteresting ramblings of a radio-host in between smatterings of hip-hop-dance-beat music.

Except for this last audio-book. I only finished it because I’ve listened to the others at least twice and wanted to know whether maybe - just maybe - the protagonist would manage to redeem herself in by the end of Disc 4. No such luck. I’ve never disliked a protagonist of a story more.

The story itself wasn’t one of the best; there was no real conflict the protagonist had to go through, and several of the subplots weren’t in the least important to her development - they weren’t even real subplots. Characters were introduced but played no role whatsoever in getting Miss Snooty off her high horse (which never happened). The whole story, in short, had no real raison d’être. Surprising, really, considering this story got an average four-star review on Amazon, and I’ve loved other books by this author. (Maybe that’s another reason why I’m so disappointed: I was really looking forward to this story.) Just goes to show how subjective this book-business is.

Still, if the main character had been likeable, I might have enjoyed this book well enough. And yes, characters are supposed to go through personal growth and development of some kind, and be “human”, i.e. have quirks and faults and unusual habits. But this one had not only one fault, but several, and all of them were something I couldn’t relate to; she was entirely self-centered, unfocused and contradictory in big, inconsistent ways. Her most annoying (and repulsive, IMO) trait was a spiteful delight at other peoples’ - even her friends’ - misfortunes. Good things came into her life by accident, rather than that she had to work or fight for them, which meant she didn’t mature at all. She didn’t have to.

Okay, enough rambling. I had a different goal for this post than yammering about this unappealing character. I meant to glean some lessons from this story for my own writing:

Characters don’t have to be likeable to be interesting, but relatable. The best stories give even the baddy a sufficient, sensible reason for being evil. The reader has to understand a character’s actions and reactions in order to feel “invested” in the story.

Say your character is the biggest loser in town - possibly the premise for an interesting story. But if this character doesn’t see the light and instead tells everybody else they or their friends are such losers… sorry, but if I met this person in real life, I’d walk the other way.

And that’s the crux of the matter, in my opinion. Nobody can force a reader to become invested in a book. If a protagonist isn’t somebody the reader wants to spend time with, s/he won’t. In real life, you can’t always get away from people you don’t like, but a book is easily put down, never to be opened again.

So, summing up what I’m taking from this disappointing story with its unappealing protagonist:

1. A story needs conflict. No conflict = why bother?
2. A character needs motives. No motives = no reason for (re-)action = why bother?
3. The plot needs to further the character’s development. Insignificant storylines/plot points/characters = can you guess?

What would you add to this list of lessons? What are other characteristics that annoy you in a protagonist or main character?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Screenwriting - Possibly A New Writing-Chapter Of My Life

About a year ago, while I was writing my thesis, I came across a German distance learning school that offered a one-year state-approved online study program in screenwriting. This course spooked around my mind for many weeks, but since I barely got through the month with the meagre pay I was earning, I decided to put it on the back-burner until I had a steady job and income.

Screenwriting is something I’ve always wanted to try, because I love movies as much as I love books. I might have studied screenwriting at the Ludwigsburg Film Academy if I’d had the courage to show others my writing at the time. I’m especially fascinated by the process of turning a book into a movie. I love seeing what movie producers make of a book; do they manage to capture the story’s essence, mood and characters, or do they tank it? Then there are great movies about which I wonder “would this story work as well as a book, even without the visual input?”

So, now that I have a steady income, I’m seriously considering going through with this course. Participants pay a - for me affordable - monthly fee for a year, with the first month being a free trial-period after which you can cancel the course if it isn’t what you expected. If you don’t manage the course in 12 months, you can extend it for another 6 without paying extra, which is a great deal for working people, in my opinion. At the end of the course, participants receive a graded certificate - in an English version, if you so wish.

I think that’s a pretty good deal. I know I could learn the basics in cheaper ways - by reading books and scouring the internet on the subject, like I’ve done with novel writing - but a course has one major advantage: you get timely feedback from people successful in their area of expertise. If it’s as professional as it sounds, I’m very willing to pay for it.

My only hesitation is on the point of timing - when do I start the course? From the school’s point of view, I can start at any time, which is great. But do I really want to give up my new-found working-woman’s free evenings and weekends, and leap right into studying again? I know that if this course is as I imagine, I’ll love it and will learn a lot. I also know I’ll want to give it my all, my best effort - and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet. Once I start paying money for it, it will become an obligation - mostly a fun obligation, I expect, but there will probably be times when I won’t feel like racking my brain for it after a full day at work. Plus, summer is coming, and I like spending a lot of free time outside. I know for sure I won’t want to be stuck inside on a sunny weekend day, just because I might otherwise fall behind the curriculum.

On the other hand, I know it’s something I can manage and really really want to do.

I think I’ll mull over the possibilities a little more before deciding how, or rather when, to proceed. The great thing about a course like this is that there’s no pressure except that which I put on myself. I don’t have to do this, like a kid who has to go to school.

I want to do this. So I will - in the not too distant future. Doesn’t really matter if I start tomorrow or three months from now, does it?

Incidentally, Chuck Wendig over at Terribleminds recently blogged about What Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters. So it seems this course could be more beneficial than just scratching an itch.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Greatest Wish As A Writer

I just started reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It’s one of those books that, as a reader, you simply can’t put down, but, as a writer, you feel you can never come up with anything that comes close to comparing with such brilliant prose, vivid characters, sly wit and charged emotions.

I felt the same way about The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Rebecca Gablé’s first historical (German) novel. Sometimes, a book just grabs you and won’t let go for a long time after finishing it.

My greatest wish as a writer is that, someday, one of my stories will inspire such a reaction in a reader.

Which books grabbed and held on to you?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest - The Orginial Sin

Another flash fiction entry of mine, this time for Suzie Townsend's The Original Sin Contest.

100 words, including Personal, Demons, Hellbent, Original and Sin. Bonus Points if you used the phrase "A Devil's Own".


“’Don’t take it personally’? How original! What happened to ‘let’s stay friends’?”

Hank shrugged. “I simply don’t feel a connection.”

“You’re a heartless… devil,” I spat, hellbent on making him feel bad - was that a sin in the face of such blatant contempt?

“Soulless, not heartless, when you speak of devils,” Hank, self-proclaimed expert on devils and demons, taunted. “Besides, I wouldn’t make deals with Satan for 

“But for other things. Remember?” I dropped my wounded wallflower façade. Oh, how I loved to play with the players. “Pay day!” His soul was mine. This devil’s own.