Writing: Censorship and Clean Reader

The Right Fucking Word: Censorship Edition

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So I’ve been spending my time today reading about this scary new thing invented by a couple in Idaho: a ‘clean reading’ app.

Does this not terrify you?

How the FUCK does this not terrify you?

What this app does, in case you’re too lazy to click on that link there, is find naughty words in a story–‘naughty’ can, apparently, include words such as breast, but would certainly extend to cover all my four letter favorites–and replace them with harmless Wheaties box alternatives, such as ‘chest’ for breast, ‘bottom’ for ass, etc.

Cleaning up the world one naughty utterance at a time, eh? What’s so wrong with that, eh?

Let me recap. This app takes an ALREADY PUBLISHED novel, the written and chosen words of a published author, and REPLACES THEM. With other words. Computer generated (or possibly self-specified) words. That the author didn’t intend, or control, or have anything to do with.

Would it be socially acceptable to walk into an art gallery with a black sharpie and scribble over someone’s painting of a cow because you’re vegetarian?

Would it be socially acceptable to walk into a newspaper office, stop the press, and change a few names around because you don’t agrees with the ‘bias’ in an article?

Would it be socially acceptable to replace the naughty words in a song with…oh, wait. Hang on a second. That’s NOT socially acceptable, but it happens anyway. Not feeling so good about this clean reading thing all of a sudden.

But let me say something. In public–sure. I get not wanting to hang a giant painting of a penis in your gallery window, or play an ‘f-bomb’ littered song on the radio. That’s just public decency, and public decency is important. After all, you have no idea who’s walking by your window, or listening to the radio, and we should all at least have the OPTION of not being exposed to what you call filth and I call fun on a daily basis. Public spaces should be neutralish, so that everyone is comfortable using them–or, well. Comfortable-ish.

However. You have the RIGHT to paint a giant penis, if you so choose. You have the RIGHT to write a song full of fucks. You have the RIGHT to make a sex tape, look at porn all day, wear plaid with chevron and stripes. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, you have the right to do whatever the fuck you want, and, as long as all involved parties consent, you even have the right to offer it up to the general public.

Should you choose to do this, your work is copyrighted to you. You can apply for a copyright if you so choose, but you’ve actually, as the creator of the work, got one quite naturally. (This is a helpful website, if you want to know more about copyrights and how they apply). There would be some that argue, in fact, that any modification of an original item (such as, you know, A NOVEL) is a violation of copyright, but since a reader has generally bought a copy of the work from an author and ownership of this ‘copyright’ has thus transferred, it’s hard to argue whether this applies in cases like the clean reading app. I’m rather inclined to think it doesn’t.

However.

When I use the word fuck in a story, there is one word I intend, one word that I feel carries through the precise inflections of what I’m trying to say, one word that, ballerina-like, balances the nuances of my meaning against the broad stage of reader comprehension with indefagitable virtue and extends the sanguine hand of hey-read-this to whomever mayeth pass.

And that word is FUCK.

I don’t like you replacing it with ‘feathers’ or ‘fudge’. I don’t like ‘feathers’. I don’t like ‘fudge’. I’m not a maiden aunt, and I haven’t written my story like a maiden aunt. Do I use it for shock value, to get attention? I don’t think so, but even if I do that’s my right of expression. If you want a story where the characters, tippy-toe balanced on the edge of a cliff, exclaim ‘horsefeathers!’ with pinkies extended, search the china shelf in your grandmother’s tea closet for written literature, and good fucking luck to you.

Because I think ‘horsefeathers!’ RUINS my story. I would cry if I saw it included in my novel. Seriously, cry–because it would make the whole story ridiculous. You would be turning my writing, which I worked very hard on, into a steaming pile of maggoty shitbrick. No, not poobrick. Not doodybrick. SHITBRICK. Say it with me, because that’s how I wrote it and how I want it to stay: SHITBRICK.

And if you’re the sort of person who can’t stand the f-bomb every once in a while, you probably shouldn’t have bought my story. And I’d like to repeat it: you bought it. You had ample option to read the first few pages in sample form on Amazon, in which F Primus appears at least once. And you bought it anyway. Half the reviews call it lewd, raunchy, or mention drinking and cursing. AND YOU BOUGHT IT ANYWAY.

My novel isn’t a dress, to be tailored to your form later.

It isn’t a sneaker. You can’t add laces, swop out the insoles.

It might not seem much like a work of art to you, but it is to me. A lot of time and effort went into placing those fucks, and where they lie so shall they stay.

I’m sure the people who invented this app aren’t bad people. I’m sure they’re not evil fascists, word dictators, what have you. They have a kid, they saw a problem. It’s understandable–though, like I said, it isn’t right.

The thing is–in a book like mine, even if you DID replace all the curses with cute little interjections, it’s STILL not appropriate for children. Given, there’s not a lot of sex in there, and the violence is fairly non-gory, but it’s not a children’s book, and the concepts inside it–which include patricide, rebelling against unjust law, and calculated, cold-blooded murder of innocent people–are not child appropriate to my mind.

Just because ‘patricide’ isn’t a dirty word doesn’t make it a clean concept.

And the idea that someone might one day see my book, go ‘oh! A fantasy novel, my kid loves those.’, run it through the clean reader app, and give it to their six year old is terrifying to me.

Words are just words. They aren’t the heart and soul of a story, but they are the tools with which the heart and soul of a story is expressed. If a story says fuck a lot, it probably isn’t appropriate for your nine year old. Because most people, in writing a book for a nine year old, wouldn’t use the word fuck to begin with.

So trust the writer. Don’t change their language; it’s changing the blocks they’ve built the house of their story from. And changing something from brick to straw, or straw to brick, changes everything about it. A roof made from straw but transformed magically into brick will collapse on your head. A brick house turned into straw might blow away with the wind.

Trust the writer.

If you doubt me, here are some famous works of fiction, censored for your viewing pleasure:

The Golden Bottom (from Apuleius’s THE GOLDEN ASS)
Illegitimately Birthed Person Out of Carolina (Dorothy Allison, BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA)
A Season in Heck (Arthur Rimbaud, A SEASON IN HELL)
Poop My Dad Says (SHIT MY DAD SAYS)
and, for fun:
Lady Chatterly’s Significant Other (Lawrence of course. Stuffy, stuffy.)

Changes the meaning in some of them, yes? Especially The Golden Ass, which does not in any way refer to someone’s hindquarters.

And, just for shits n’ giggles, here are some other writers who’ve weighed in on the clean reading app, including Joanne Harris’s beautiful and impassioned first message. I agree with every word they say–especially every word Chuck Wendig says, because most of them are naughty.

Chuck Wendig
Joanne Harris

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Novels

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Writing: What’s Up With Me, II

Sorry I’ve been all quiet on the western front, you guys. I’ve been spending this week trying to figure out my taxes, and um. I’ll put it this way, when you’re used to reaching for the 1040EZ automatically, it’s a lot to figure out. My brain goes numb automatically when anyone mentions taxes. It’s more boring than four hour bus rides with (gasp!) NO WIFI. I get ESPECIALLY ADD about taxes.

That’s right. More ADD than usual.

Be frightened.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a little bit of our usual chummy-chum bloggy-blog time to update you on the State of Stories over here, with definite dates and chewy chunks of expectation for all to digest. I’ve gotten a whole lot of writing done here recently–as mentioned here, I kind of accidentally wrote a novelette–and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you folks in the ragged remains of this calendar year.

First, the definitive dating list:

THE ANTIDOTE (Aurian and Jin novelette)–4/30/15. About 17K, not a long read but probably good for an hour or two if you miss A&J that much. There’s poison, obviously, and a drunk procession, and pregnant Jin, and a mob with bad spelling. It’ll either be free or .99, depending. Part of me wants to use this story, which slid out easier than a greased turd, as a freebie for marketing purposes–it can be read rather independently of A&J. Part of me likes to get paid for work I do. So I don’t know.

THE KING’S MIGHT (A Novel of Averdan)–6/21/15. About 55K. This started out as a novella and became a short novel, accidentally, because when Emily edits Emily adds in like a motherfucker. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT, an Aurian and Jin story. It’s something entirely different, but you’ll like it, I promise. Features Pratchettesque footnotes, a warrior’s comb, curious dissection, and king-type people. Will be priced at a very affordable .99, to suck you bastards into my web of lies.

LITTLE BIRD (The Sundering Trilogy, Book II)–9/27/15. And here, at last, is A&J Book II. It’s running at about 80K right now, but I’ve still got to button up my editing, so I reserve the right to change that figure as I see fit. Features more of the glory that was the Coven of the Ursine Shattermath, Jin and Aurian having a teenager, and that teenager doing what you’d expect Aurian and Jin’s teenager to do, which is mostly stupid shit. There’s also a male Woman King, phosphorescent witchery, cannibalism (or, erm, very fresh blood puddings in flesh-covered casings) and prophecies. Yes, there are prophecies. Don’t hate me yet, they’re fun prophecies, delivered by a homeless guy with a bad fucking attitude. Will be 2.99, as always. So forgo a cup of coffee one week in September so you can buy my book. Or: forgo two cups of coffee, so you can buy my book and a spare pair of underpants, because it is so awesome you will shit yourself.

Right now, my mother is reading this, and she is appalled by my language. Hi, Mom! Love you!

Anyway, there you go. State of the Union. What to expect. A warning shot.

Cheers,
EFR

Writing: How to Write a Book in 12 Steps

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Writing: How to Write A Novel in 12 Steps

Believe it or not, this is a question I get asked with intermediate frequency: how do you write a whole novel?

To which I typically reply: how do you go to work every day? Or, if you’re from North Carolina, like me: how did Coach K win 1,000 games?

The answer, of course is: one word at a time. If you’re Coach K, one game at a time. There are no fancy steps, no beginning prep rituals, no ‘confronting the Muse’ moment where you, as artistically as possible, crumple before the weight of your own genius like a syphilitic whore in a morality play.

A novel–usually defined at a work of fiction over 50,000 words–might sound intimidating, if you’re not a frequent writer. But you do it one word at a time. You do it by telling a story–by telling a story, in fact, until you think the story is told.

1) You get an idea. You mull it over, for a while: it’s a pretty good idea. You think you’d like to write something about it.
2) After fluttering around debating it for a while, you sit down in front of a blank screen in Scrivener or Word or whatever else you use. Maybe you open a fresh notebook. Rescue a crumpled legal pad from the refuse on the floor. Whatever it is you do to get started.
3) You write down a word. Usually, it’s ‘CHAPTER’, or ‘ONE’, or something similar.
4) After that, you write some more words. You write, and write, and write, and write.
5) You might, at some point, get to an area where the story is giving you trouble. Maybe you’re not sure what should happen next, or you’ve lost interest in telling this story. Sometimes, then, it’s best if you put it down, or move on to another part of the story you can get excited about currently.
6) But here’s the thing. There’ll be a point you’re interested in that story again, a point you know what should happen. And that story won’t have moved, won’t have changed. It’s waiting for you.
7) After a while, you notice you’ve already written ten pages of this story. Next time you check, you’ve written twenty. Holy shit, that was 40,000 words! And then, when you check again, 80,000. But the story isn’t finished, so you continue.
8) And, eventually, the story IS finished. I can’t tell you what this point is, but trust me, you’ll know.
9) You go out with your friends, who have just about forgotten you exist. You drink heavily. You tell everybody you wrote a novel–go you! You form opinions on the state of the writing world in general, on women in fiction, on diversity in literature. You tell a bunch of people about your opinions. A small percentage of them are even interested. Give this phase about two months.
10) After debating the writing world, how good you look in a tweed blazer, and just what shelf in the study (you have a STUDY now) your Pulitzer should go on, you edit. This sucks the life out of you.
11) After you edit, you publish, or send off, or whatever your preferred kiss goodbye to your manuscript is. And then:
12) You get this idea. You mull it over for a while: it’s a pretty good idea. You think you’d like to write something about it….

What I’m saying, kiddos, is this: there is no formula, no good ‘first step’, no coaching and coaxing, to writing something. There’s you. There’s a story. You have to tell the story, so you do.

You tell it until it’s finished. And then you have a novel.

All the stuff we write about writing–including my OWN stuff–is bunk. Is bullshit. Is crap.

Writing isn’t about character arcs, or good first lines, or diagramming motivation, or, God forbid, that stupid cowturd nonexistent figure ‘The Muse’. Writing is NONE of this. Writing isn’t something you can follow advice for, learn how to do, or even, honestly, learn how to do better.

Writing is storytelling. That’s all. That’s it.

What determines ‘whether or not you’re a writer’ (how I hate this question!) is whether or not you do it.

So when we’re debating adverbs and adjectives, the purpose of the Hero’s Journey, cliches and archetypes, truisms and tropes, keep this in mind. Let it simmer in the back of your skull, percolate amongst the writeous (like that one?) and judgemental ideas we all have about ‘The Craft’.

Writing is storytelling. It’s done word by word.

And right now–

You aren’t doing it.

That’s all. Much love,
EFR

Writing: Dealing With Criticism

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Writing: Dealing With Criticism

I want to be honest up front here: I have never had anyone out and out tell me I was a shitty writer. I’ve never gotten a one star review: or, for that matter, a less than four star review.

This isn’t, much as I want to believe it is, because I’m just that good. It simply hasn’t happened yet. And, judging from the reviews I’ve seen writers just as good as I am get, it WILL happen.

It’s just a matter of time. And, as a self-pubber, I don’t have the advantage of a publishing company between me and the reviewer. It’s just me, five Amazonian stars, and some stranger who’s read my book.

There’s the opportunity here, especially for a delicate multi-feelings’d cupcake such as myself, to get bruised. There’s the opportunity, for a grammargating, mouth-frothing, itinerant fragile flower such as myself, to get pretty butthurt. There’s the opportunity, I might even dare say, for a bright-eyed, artistically souled, chirpy chirpy baby bird such as moi to get downright pissed.

But here’s the thing: I’m not just writing for my grandmother and my cat any more. My book is going places other than my dad’s office or the storage compartment on my boyfriend’s bike. I voluntarily underwent the process of publication: put myself through it, actually. I did this because I deemed my own story fit for public consumption.

And that’s the thing about the public–not everyone likes the same things. Not everyone’s going to like my book as much as I liked it. And of the people who do–well, who’s going to be as enthusiastic about it as I am? Almost nobody.

Lemme tell you, I’m a sensitive, sensitive little shit. I take everything personally. I take the kindest and most well-intentioned criticism deeply personally. I take the way people look at me personally. I probably have self esteem issues, or something boring like that. Luckily, I’m also egotistical, so I mostly ignore them.

But here’s the thing: I signed on that ‘for public consumption’ dotted line. And this means my work–and myself–exist, in these public spaces, as a public entity.

And the folks who’re kind enough to give me reviews–they’re existing in a public space as well. They’re taking the same risks, albeit with a less lengthy piece of writing, that I am. For all a one-star reviewer knows, I’m actually a crazy hacker lady with a butcher knife and access to their private address and family phone numbers. And what you said about my main character being boring and horrible to read about–rawr. It makes me and my forty-seven cat army very angry.

Therefore: I do them the same favor they do me. What they’re offering isn’t criticism, or praise, of me–hell, they don’t even know me.

So I don’t take it personally.

Yes, you might be a shy wounded flower in private. But in public, you’re the guy or girl who wrote that book somebody may or may not have liked. That’s all.

It’s irritating sometimes, sure. Again, you’re an individual snowflake and whatnot. But it’s also freeing.

You are, to repeat, the individual, artistic little snowflake who signed your work off as ready for publication. There are no special allowances for you because you’re indie, because you’re a single dad, because you’re homo/heterosexual, because you’re very young, because you’re very old, etc. To your readers, it’s just a book. It isn’t you.

You can decrease your number of negative reviews by making it a damned good book. But that’s about all you can do, and you’ll still get some.

Whenever something makes the shuddering snowflake side of me rear its ugly multifaceted little head, I just think of this:

One of my favorite writers amongst the bestselling indies is Hugh Howey. He’s a very kind man, very supportive of other startup writers, and his first Wool novella was pure genius, a la classic sci fi. It was a story you might’ve expected to see in Playboy circa 1970, next to Ray Bradbury or Richard Matheson. The twist was perfect, the ending left you gasping. The writing was terse, elegant, emotionally charged. (Are you one of the four people left on earth who hasn’t read it? Here it is, do yourself a favor and read it.)

The first Wool story has, to date, 2,020 reviews. That number’s probably changed since I wrote it down five minutes ago, but there you go. It’s a lovely piece of writing. There’s little to dislike about it, if you’re a sci-fi fan.

And yet. And yet.

Out of those 2,020 reviews, sixty-four of them are one star. Eighty of them are two. Which means that, out of 2,020 people bold enough to leave a review, one hundred and forty-four of them–somewhere around seven percent, I think–found it unacceptable.

One hundred and forty-four. That’s over ten times the number of reviews I have, total.

So logically–even with a great piece of writing–somewhere around five percent of people just won’t like it, and won’t like it enough to tell the world just how much they didn’t like it. Respect these people. Respect their opinions. They cared enough to tell the rest of the world how they felt–care enough about them, and the time they took to read and purchase your book, to let it stand in silence.

As far as I know, Mr. Howey didn’t bitch. He might not have liked it–I don’t know the man, I don’t presume to speak for him–but I’ve never heard anyone complain about the way he treats reviewers. If I were him, I would have looked at that 1,876 figure–the people who DID like it and find it acceptable–and patted myself on the back.

So just know: whatever it is you’ve written, even if it’s the goddamn Mona Lisa of speculative fiction, someone, somewhere, isn’t going to like it.

And that has nothing to do with you.

So button it up.

EFR

PS–And, of course, what would this post be without a dangerous and passive-aggressive plug? Give me five stars and make my heart go gummy, or give me one and imagine me silently and respectfully going batshit while I say nothing. Those’re odds everybody feels comfortable with, I know. 😛 Booky booky, looky looky.

Writing: Mentalism, Emotional Resonance, and You

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Writing: Mentalism, the I Ching, and You

Anybody here ever thrown the I Ching?

I know, I know. You’re looking at me now like I’m crazy. I am. But that’s purely coincidental.

When I was younger, I read Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic The Man in the High Castle, and I was pretty well captivated by the idea of the I Ching. So I bought myself a copy, fished a few quarters out from between the couch cushions, and gave it a go.

The Oracle gives pretty good advice, open to interpretation, open to the winds. And it’s almost eerie how well any little piece of advice (hexagrams, they’re called) will fit the situation you need help with.

It seems almost like magic. It seems almost like prescience.

Of course, it isn’t.

The way the I Ching works–and what makes it such a powerful source of good advice–is something falling into the realm a magician would call mentalism. Basically, it’s the ability to make a general statement that will resonate with a very high percentage of readers or viewers–will resonate enough, in fact, to seem like telepathy.

Which means, to put it briefly, that the I Ching gives good tidbits of general advice, dressed in a healthy soupcon of mysticism. It then leaves the interpretation of this advice–even with commentary–up to you. It’s advice that can apply to any good yes or no question–things such as ‘will my relationship succeed?’ or ‘should I publish my first novel now, or in a few months?’–and, lemme tell you, it’s probably better general advice than the sort you’ll get from your friends, whose opinions are influenced by the fact that they like you, and want you to succeed.

I can do it too. See? See? Lemme tell you something about yourself.

You’re not as brave as you would like to be, but when the cards are down, you do what you need to do to make things work.

The magic is, this is true of almost every single person on Earth. No one’s as brave as they want to be, but in the end, we all like to think we step up to the plate when we have to. So I can say it. I can say it, specifically to you. And you feel like it’s true. I can even mold it to make a semi-specific prediction:

A source of new money will come your way soon. What it comes down to, in the end, is if you’re brave enough to take the opportunity. Don’t falter, and don’t hold back–your commitments won’t be hurt by a little time spent elsewhere. Take the chance, and you’ll be prosperous.

This is nothing-advice, built on dreams and air, yet it contains a few grains of truth. A source of new money probably will come your way ‘soon’. We have opportunities to earn money all the time and, with this advice in mind, you’ll probably be more on the lookout than you were before. Whether or not you’re brave enough to go for it–isn’t this what everything comes down to, in the end? And as to your commitments–well, that’s a bit of a guess, but it’s a sound one. You probably have a few. And, as any way of earning money usually takes some time and attention, it’s a fair guess it’ll take your attention away from the nebulous Elsewhere for a while.

So I gave you good general advice. And when it happens–and there’s a very high probability it will–you’ll think I’m a fucking genius.

Why am I talking about all this, you wonder? You’re probably not consulting this blog for my mind-reading powers. Or, um. If you are, you’ve got another thought coming to you, because I don’t have any.

But there’s a good lesson for your writing here. You know that old adage, write what you know? I’ve talked about it a little before, here in this post OMG linky linky.

Writing what you know is the art of empathy and connection, especially in fantasy. You might not have ever been cursed by Azoktarian the Mighty, but you’ve had an enemy, and you know the powerless anger and finger-curling tooth-gritting subservience of being helpless against somebody. Because you know those things, you can tell the story of being cursed. Because you’ve missed dinner, you can tell the story of famine-stricken farmers in Glarglian Province, and the hunger that maddens them and presses them to rise up, sharpen their pitchforks, and kill the grain-hoarding Duke.

Apply these mentalist principles, in tandem with the idea of writing what you know, to your story, and you’ll have yourself some old school emotional resonance.

In short: don’t make your main conflict whether or not Frodo gets the ring to Mount Doom. Make it whether a hobbit, a homey little creature who likes his couch and his comforts almost as much as the person reading the book, can triumph against insurmountable odds based on faith, trust, and friendship.

Because people don’t know shit about hobbits. They don’t know shit about magical rings, Uruk-Hai, or the difference between the sons of Feanor and Fingolfin (sorry, I am a blue-bleeding genuine geek). But they know what it’s like to be a regular person facing insurmountable odds. They know what determination is, and they know what it’s like to stick to a task. They might not know what it’s like to be a King in hiding, cast into the wild north, but they know what it’s like to run from responsibility, and the pride that comes with taking up a rightful burden.

Your fantasy story, at its heart, is a very real story, about very real people, with very real problems. Everything else–the fantasy elements, the cool settings, the magic systems–is just set dressing, and is therefore secondary.

You think I’m insane right now, saying the fantasy part of a fantasy is set dressing.

I am. But again: purely coincidental.

What matters first isn’t your genre. It isn’t your world. It’s your story. It’s having a good story, with a conflict that can resonate with a large group of people.

Look at Star Wars. Yes, we all love TIE fighters and jawas and the cantina scene, we all love Jabba the Hutt and Leia in a metal bikini and, um, some of us love Ewoks (don’t judge me). But most of us first saw Star Wars as kids or adolescents, and we resonated with Luke’s whiny ass. Because here was a kid finding himself. Here was a kid finding his place. Here was a kid fighting evil–going against his father–for something he believed was right.

His place in the world just happened to be a lot cooler than ours, and his ‘right’ happened to involve lightsabers. Again: why we read spec fic. And why those set dressings DO matter.

So, when you’re thinking about the conflict and plot of your story, ask yourself these questions:
1) Can I take the main plot of this story out of a fantasy setting, and make it work?
2) Can I sum it up in a few sentences, in a way that would apply to a large group of people here?

And:

3) How am I working to make this character’s arc resonate with my audience?

Because emotional resonance is that simple. Mind you, I’m not saying you shouldn’t give your character specific traits, or your world specific traits. Of course you should. But the conflict that moves the story along should, deep down, be something everyone can understand. And, while I’m not a big believer in symbolism and/or allegory, this one-or-two-line conflict should be very carefully defined by you, for yourself, as you write.

Because it’s the spine of your story. It’s the thing keeping it upright and mobile. And it’s the one thing–the one damn thing–you need to keep in mind every time a character farts or walks a few paces. And you should always–always–make decisions for that character based on how you know someone in that situation would feel.

If you do this, you’ll have all sorts of feely feels in your story.

Mm. Feely feels.

I’m going to go feel doing some work now.
EFR

Writing: 5 Things I Want More of In Fantasy Romance Subplots

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Writing Wednesday: Five Things I Want More of In Romance Subplots

I’d like to make a note: this is NOT one of those ‘twenty tropes I as a self-published and inexperienced writer totes mcgoats think we could do without lolz’ types of posts.

I’m tired of those. I wrote a whole post about them a while ago: here it is. For now, suffice it to say that I think our bad-mouthing of common genre archetypes, especially poor Campbell and his Hero’s Journey, is the HEIGHT of self-published self-indulgence. Picasso might’ve preferred cubism, but you can bet he could draw pretty well realistically when given the chance: on the same note, if you want to say you don’t ‘believe’ in the Hero’s Journey, you might want to try dealing with it a little first. You know, just to see what all the fuss is about. ‘ZOMG I so hate Joseph Campbell’ isn’t an argument. It’s a statement.

And, frankly, when we think those sort of statements count as guidelines and arguments–‘I’m tired of this, I don’t like this, I’m offended by that’–that’s when we lose our ability to write, and argue, effectively. Because I can tell you a million things I don’t like. Eggplant, for one–I really don’t like eggplant.

But you might LOVE eggplant. You might think eggplants are tiny purple angels on tiny purple wings. You’re not wrong. I’m not right. And vice versa. We just have differing opinions. (Actually, you ARE wrong. Eggplant is the aubergine spawn of Satan.)

Anyway, that out of the way:

Here are five things, specifically related to the fantasy genre and romance therein, that I’d like to see MORE. Because I read a lot of fantasy, and here lately, I haven’t seen them much. And I miss them. And–for the trillionth time–that’s just my opinion.

1) Happily married couples.
None of these great fantasy heroes have wives or husbands. At least: not living. A husband or wife may’ve had to die tragically to MAKE a hero, but c’mon. I’d like to see more stories about hero husband and hero wife working as a team. More or less happily. I mean, I get that it’s kind of tough to be Tall Dark and Handsome when you’re married, but, well. Maybe we could do with a little less Tall Dark and Handsome.

This is the point where I plug: my novel features this. Or, well, sort of. It’s, erm. Definitely nontraditional. But if you want to read it, here it is. Pluggity plug plug plug.

Or:

2) Falling Out of Love.
Y’ever notice all these people seem to find The One and then stay with him or her? To which I say: huh? I’ve been through a few boyfriends. I’ve seen no evidence it’s that easy. I’d like to see a story where the heroine finds her One and Only, has a great relationship for a few months or years, and then–gasp!–just like the rest of us, it just stops being the same, and she’s off looking for a new One and Only.

I don’t think, for most of us, there were any SIGNS at the beginning of our last failed relationship that this might not wind up being Twoo Wuv. We probably believed in it pretty hard for a while. And then, that moment came–he yelled at a bus driver, or got really pissing drunk and threw up on your cat, or you saw him propped up in bed in his underwear laughing at his own farts one too many times, or whatever it was. He wasn’t an asshole, he just wasn’t right. Your illusions were shattered. And it just wasn’t Twoo Wuv any longer. So you broke up.

Got it? No fires, no masked assassins, no cheating, no beating. It just–didn’t work. Why, in fantasy, does this happen so rarely?

3) Nontraditional Relationships.
Always found it interesting that, in all these well imagined fantasy worlds with different pantheons of gods and codes of behavior and whatnot, a relationship is still predominantly one man and one woman having sex and usually getting hitched. Where are all my gay societies? My polygamous societies? My man-harems, my surrogate mothers, my wife-or-fives? This can be tough to do well, I think–as a person in the Western world, I know I take cishet relationships for granted as the baseline standard.

But in a fantasy world, they don’t have to be. Remember: the baseline in your own imaginary paradise is whatever you want it to be. Just stick to it throughout the story.

4) The Impure Maid/Man
This has gotten a little less common in the past ten years, and that’s great, but it’s still there, and I have to tell you. Unless your character is eleven, this latest girl he’s seen at the water fountain probably isn’t the first girl he’s ever felt this way about. Your thirty year old main character had probably felt this way about a COUPLE of people, depending upon availability and circumstances. Even a seventeen year old kid, while she’ll maybe not have a dating history, will have had crushes, feelings, THOUGHTS on the matter of love. She will notice when a man is attractive. It may or may not mean they’ll date later, because I sure as hell haven’t dated everyone I’ve ever found attractive, and a lot of them for damned sensible reasons.

Again: this isn’t about actual VIRGINITY, per se. Depending on how you’ve written your world, it may or may not be weird for a thirty year old person to still be a physical virgin. But as far as feelings go? No. That IS weird. Because we’re not made of stone, and we don’t come alive only for one person.

And number 5. I hate that I’m even having to write number five down, but here we go:

5) Women Having Consensual Sex.
See why I hated having to write that down, now?

I’ll put it plainly for you: I think rape gets overwritten. I think it gets sensationalized, trussed up in lurid colors, even, though no one in their right minds will admit it, romanticized.

Here’s the thing. It’s not romantic. It’s the opposite. And it certainly isn’t a plot device. And the fact that it’s common enough in spec fic for me to think of it as a trope is SCARY.

I read a book recently that could have worked, I think, with about a FIFTH of the rape that was in it. Jesus. I understand that it’s a very tragic happening, and it’s ruined many a life, but that doesn’t mean you should resort to it every time you need to come up with something negative to happen to a female character. This is ugly. It’s ugly, and sick, and just a little demeaning. There are times when your story will involve it. There are times when you HAVE to have that happen. And that’s all well and good. But overdoing it is tasteless in the extreme.

Girls can get robbed too. Girls can get murdered, too. Just because your character is a woman doesn’t mean rape is automatically the worst thing that could happen to her so it SHOULD happen. Christ.

And, on a similar note: fascinating how men and boys are almost never represented in this particular statistic. I’ve seen it a little more here lately, again, but before ten years ago or so, you’d think women were the only people with non-willing orifices in fantasy. This is not the case. Men can get raped too, and it’s just as tragic.

So there you go. Again: my opinion. Romance is usually a subplot in fantasy–very much not the main attraction–but that doesn’t mean it needs to get reduced to a few easily-taken-for-granted bobbly bits. Your fantasy relationships should be just as rich and varied as relationships can be in real life.

If you need help with this, just think about yourself. Did you remain alone and aloof until you saw that one boy at the Summer Dance, who started off as a good friend but you-both-knew-how-it-was-going-to-go-by-chapter-ten? Did you fight through Many Hardships just so you could Be Together, eventually getting married and living Happily Ever After (At Least Until The Sequel?) No. Fuck no. Before THAT guy there was Travis, Ted, Devin, Ryan, Zorvak the Enrapturer (boy, was THAT a mistake). You saw cute guys in bars, maybe even divorced a cute guy you saw in a bar.

Or maybe you have a girlfriend AND a boyfriend. Or you’re a girl with a girlfriend. Or you’ve got the sister-wives joining together to make a turkey dinner at home. Whatever. You get my point.

There’s nothing wrong with the story of A Boy and A Girl, Together Forever. It’s a good story.

But other things happen too. Don’t forget them.

Cheers,
EFR

Writing: The First Rule of Fight Scenes

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Writing: The First Rule of Fight Scenes

…is, of course, you don’t talk about fight scenes.

Okay, sorry. I’ve been waiting all week to do that one.

Anyway.

I wanted to devote a few minutes to writing fight sequences, because it’s something I try not to do consciously. Now, make no bones about it, it’s something I’m fairly GOOD at doing. However, I still stand by the fact that you’re better off approaching them as you would part of any other scene–get in, get out, describe what happens.

There’s no special art to it. In fact: you shouldn’t be spending too much time worrying about it.

But Emily, you say. Your book. It’s, like. MOSTLY fight scenes.

To which I reply: is it? Really?

It’s not. There are a few scenes where my characters actively trade blows, but for the most part, the scenes you’re thinking of are scenes of coersion, scenes of internal conflict, scenes just before or just after quite a lot of fighting. And those actual fight scenes, when they happen, are short. Because there’s not much to them, other than fighting, and ain’t nobody gonna wanna read twenty pages ’bout blow-by-blow combat. If you want that, try Kung-Fu For Dummies.

Because here’s the thing. Actual, raw, blow-to-blow fighting SHOULD be a fairly small percentage of your story, even an action-adventure type story. And when it happens, it should happen like action happens–nasty, brutal, short and quick, with a long build-up and a release point like a fire hydrant on methamphetamines.

Because fighting in and of itself isn’t–can’t be–a plot device.

And a story–even action/adventure–is still about carrying on the plot.

Look at it this way. Your fight scene is like the whitehead on a particularly nasty pimple. It’s a symptom, rather than the disease itself. It’s happening because tensions have been mounting underneath the surface–all that tasty conflict (Man vs. Man, Man. Vs. Himself, you pick it, we write it) has been ramping the fuck UP.

Think about the knife fight between Paul and Jamis in Frank Herbert’s Dune. That fight scene happens because we–and Stilgar, the sietch leader–need to SEE Paul prove himself against a Fremen, need to SEE proof that Paul can become Muad’dib, the Fremen hero, who can kill a man in cold blood when it’s required. It’s a turning point in Paul’s character arc, a moment in which he begins changing to fit his new destiny and the new and brutal ways of this Fremen life. The actual fight, though it’s one of the more memorable things in Dune, is about two pages long, maybe three.

The plot isn’t actually ABOUT the fight. Ever. It’s about what the fight PROVES–what’s at stake if your character loses, if he wins. We remember the knife fight because of what happens before and after–the disposing of Jamis’s body, the meeting it marks between sietch and city-people–rather than the fight itself.

Back to my pimple analogy. The actual fight is merely the moment that whitehead bursts, leaving you with a big red spot on your face and no way to cover it so that guy you like in first period doesn’t think your’e gro-oooss, ohmigawd.

What matters isn’t the pimple bursting. The pimple’s been there for days, getting redder and redder, grosser and grosser.

What matters is the conflict that led up to the fight–the thing that caused the pimple to grow in the first place. After all, if you had some sort of magical plot-exfoliant, it wouldn’t have happened at all, would it? And Derek from English would have asked you to go to prom with him. (Keep dreaming, sweetheart.)

On a purely practical level–save to resolve some element of it, a fight can’t advance your plot much by itself, either. Why? Not a lot of talk happens, in fighting. Not a lot of resolutions get made. If you’re writing your fight scene well, your characters are usually too busy for conversation or introspection. The result of a fight might advance your plot, but the fight itself? Best keep it short.

So, to recap: a fight in a story proves something in your plot, or resolves something. It isn’t plot. There’s too much action going on during it for your plot to grow.

You can learn something about a character through it, I suppose. (Jamis, in Dune, is ambidexterous). Or, through a character’s loss or knowledge gained, you can create more plot points. But these aren’t things that’re dealt with WITHIN the fight. They’re dealt with after, when your character has a few seconds to catch his or her breath.

So it’s best to keep your fight scenes short and sweet. Describe what happens (And this is advice I would SHOUT at you, if I could–describe what happens. Don’t get all purply prosy about it. Give a blow-by-blow account. Fighting is fast and confusing enough without you bollixing it up with Your Darlings). Leave the significance, the purple prose, and the ch-ch-ch-changes for directly after the fight, when there’s time for reflection.

Otherwise, your characters obviously aren’t busy enough.

Cheers,
EFR

Writing: Aurian and Jin Novelette

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So. To make a long story short, I sort of accidentally wrote a novelette.

It was intended to be a new prologue for Little Bird. But, once I got started, it was FAR too long for that purpose–and too short, at a little under 20K, to be a whole new novel.

So what we have here is, in essence, an Aurian and Jin novelette. It takes place directly after the end of Aurian and Jin–(SPOILER: before Jin has her baby). I realized, once I started looking at Little Bird again, that there’s a BIG time gap, and a lot of questions that go somewhat unanswered in the second book. Such as: how did Aurian and Jin wind up in Pretty-on-Picture?

I’ll put it out a few months before Little Bird is released, I suppose. It’s not a big deal, but it IS fun. And I thought you guys might enjoy it.

Here’s the first little bit of it. I still need a name for it, something better than ‘Aurian and Jin Novelette’, which is, I think, how it’s labeled in Word on my tablet.

WARNING: IF you haven’t read Aurian and Jin (shame on you!) and would like to, you might not want to read any further. Here there be spoilers.

You can pick up Aurian and Jin here.

1

The funeral procession, such as it was, wound its way down the river Withy with ribbons fluttering. Folk raised their voices in song. Minstrels of various quality played festival music, and everywhere sounded the eternal tap-tapping of drums.

Unlike most funeral processions, this one was undeniably cheerful. There were white flowers tied in bunches on the spears of the Akanetarin women. There were rose-cheeked maidens in their festival best, young farmers with tans and bright eyes and machetes that looked just a little too recently sharpened and oiled. There were dancers, hired professionally for the discount rate of one dinar a day. They were happy to do it, would have done it for free if the collected masses of the renegade Bonedancer’s army hadn’t insisted on paying them.

The four lutists borrowed from the Kartok Guild of Unified Musicians and Merrymakers were, however, working pro bono. It was in their charter, their spokesman had stated, that if they were paid to play a funeral, they had to wear mourning garb: they didn’t much feel like it. They had festival gowns to flaunt, golden belts, particolored hose. They had barrels of ale to quaff. Steaks, newly liberated from Upper Circle cattle, to consume.

The people were celebrating the death of their Emperor, Morda Bonemaker.

His coffin, stuffed almost invisibly into the center of the procession’s cheerful chaos, was a pinewood box. The box had already been spat on and pissed on and painted up and, somehow, bled on. It would not have been there at all, had the header of the procession not insisted on it. Had this header not insisted doubly, it would have long ago been kicked into kindling, and the dried-up body inside it tossed into the nearest river.

This procession header had already, as it happened, lost the battle over the noble estates in Kartok’s First Circle: the smoking remnants of this loss were still visible as a faint black smudge on the Southern horizon. The rictus mouths and crouched posture of that battle’s ashen victims still shone as memory in her single grey eye. She had not burned many people–she was a woman who preferred to deal death directly, with a sword–and the smell wouldn’t leave her hair or the mane of her horse. Her husband, beside her, had been spared the worst of those excesses, but he looked at her from time to time, and could very much see them weighing upon her.

The procession header, in fact, owned the only face in the crowd that didn’t look almost loopily happy to be there. This face was scarred, and browned, and grim. It was grey of eye, gaunt of cheek, still streaked with the mud and blood of recent battle. It belonged to Evinanjin Koch, renegade general, slayer of the Emperor Morda her father, Wolfmother of the Metaxian campaign, Grand Wizardess of the Malinogian, savior of her people, lowborn pain in the ass.

Wife, as it happened, of Aurian Koch, professional innkeeper.

Rider, as it also happened, of a fine white charger, arrayed lovingly by the grateful procession in red and gold silk, bedecked in particolored strings of tiny golden bells, all of which were, undoubtedly, stolen.

The Bonedancers–ex-Bonedancers, now that the Sundering Sword had worked its magic–had disappeared. Nobody much cared. There was ale to drink, and victory to celebrate, and property to plunder. The victorious Evinanjin knew better than to call her folk back now: they needed to rend, to rip and tear, to misbehave. After the lunacy in the Upper Circle, however, she had made a tactical decision and called the worst of them together to form this countrywide procession. The entire city, she had explained to her husband, was a lot safer with them out of it.

Whenever the procession came across a band of travellers–or, Aithar forbid, a village–it burst into song and dance and out of tune luting, announcing the good news. This was, ostensibly, the purpose of the procession, and it stuck to it with a fervor that bordered on the fanatical.

‘Hie, hie, the Emperor’s dead!
We stomped his ass and broke his head.
Hie, hie, the Emperor’s lost
And we will nevermore be bossed.
Hie, hie, the good folk win!
All hail Aurian and Jin!’

“It won’t last, I hope,” Aurian said, quietly, to his wife. His charger, though a hand’s width shorter than his wife’s, was just as ridiculously attired. His hair had been brushed and combed–without, as it happened, his permission– and his face was pale. Every time a member of the procession reached out to touch him–which was entirely too frequently for comfort–he jumped a little in his saddle.

“I know,” Jin said. “I’m just hoping it blows over before they elect me to something.”

“That’d have to be quick,” Aurian muttered. “This isn’t exactly what I–hey! Stop that!”

This last was directed to a merry young girl in a crown of white flowers who had, sidling up beside his pacing charger, taken the moment to firmly and unmistakably grab his crotch. She giggled and melted back into the funeral throng, leaving only the scent of spilled ale and a grease-spot on Aurian’s white tunic to mark her presence.

“Jin,” Aurian said tightly. “This has got to stop.”

“What the hell d’you expect me to do about it? They’ve been aching to do this for centuries. They’ve been dreaming of it, cooped up in their tiny houses, drinking their contaminated water and counting their too-few coins. I’ve minimized the damage already, bringing them out here. Let them have their fun, and next week they’ll be back to hoeing weeds and keeping shops like anyone else.”

“What I don’t understand,” Aurian said, “is why this fun has to include us.”

Jin rolled her single grey eye skywards. “Simple, my dove,” she said. “Imagine what would happen if it didn’t.”

Aurian, watching the simple folk of the Imperial South whirl and stagger and screech around him, was forced to agree.

“Still,” he murmured. “My balls’ve been grabbed so many times in the past few days they’re sore from it. You’re lucky, they won’t touch you. They’re afraid of you.”

Her curling yellowed smile was far from reassuring. “Just do what I did,” she suggested sweetly. “Break some fingers.”

Over the next few days, Aurian tried. He really tried. But he wasn’t fast enough, or comfortable enough riding, to lean out as far as he needed to catch them and not tip out of the saddle himself. His few tries left him even more bruised, and with even bigger mudstains on his tunic. The procession, a fickle creature in its entirety, took to laughing at him.

“Jin,” he hissed, as the most recent giggling maiden ducked and flittered away to avoid his fist. “If you don’t do something about this, I’m leaving. I’m an innkeeper, not a–whatever this involves being.”

Jin reigned in her horse. The procession, too drunk to realize their leader had stopped, flowed on around them. “No,” she said. “No, you can’t.”

“I most certainly can. You said you’d come away with me, Jin. We’re not meant for this–this mess. Neither one of us. You’re a fighter, but you’re not a leader, and I’m not even a damned fighter. It’s going to kill me, and I imagine it won’t end so prettily for you, either.”

“But–” she opened her mouth and, for once, thought better of saying whatever she was about to say.

“All right,” she said at last. “Okay. I did promise. But Aurian–let me see Morda buried. I at least owe him that. The Akanetarin will take care of the Mordre as they see fit, I know, but who’ll make sure Morda doesn’t wind up poisoning a river somewhere? No one here cares.”

“He tried to kill you,” Aurian reminded her.

“I know. But he was the closest thing to a father I had.”

Aurian’s mouth opened. He saw, suddenly and all too clearly, why he had been dragged along on this procession, and why his fine new clothing had been ruined, and why, as of yesterday, he had taken to wearing a protective cup in the saddle.

“That’s what this is all about?” he said. “You want to bury that bastard?”

“Well, yes,” Jin snapped. “Is that so odd, Master Innkeeper? He was my father.”

“You killed him.”

She shrugged, a little uncomfortably. “Well,” she said again. “I do believe in cleaning up my own messes.”

Writing: Writers and Readers

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Writing: Writers and Readers

This is just a bitty, hurried bloggage, but I wanted to say something.

When I see sales advice online–in any of the billion and one various places you see it–they’re usually discussing a way to ‘reach your readers’. There are complaints that some services–book promo groups and sites especially–are composed almost entirely of WRITERS, with few READERS to be found. There are separate hashtags for reaching ‘readers’.

Personally, I find this hilarious.

Because most writers–anybody who’s got enough to do with language arts to pump out an entire goddamn novel–ARE readers. They are the readers who’re most into reading, who got the most from it as kids, who were so inspired by it, in fact, that they decided to give it a go themselves. I know I for one love to read. I read a crazy number of books a year. And when something’s done well–when I enjoy a book–I’m a loyal goddamn fan.

So you just have to accept it. A lot of the people who buy your book, especially in this era of indie publishing, will be writers as well.

I don’t think this means you always need to review the book written by the person who reviewed yours. After all, they haven’t asked for it–they just picked your book up at a sale, or after seeing a promotion, just like these fabled ‘just readers’ I see references to in song and story. And they left a review, or a rating, because they know firsthand how much it means to you to do so. It would be nice of you to do it, if their book looks like something you’d enjoy. But don’t let what you feel as a writerly obligation get in the way of your readerly habits and enjoyment.

In a way, your best audience group IS other writers.

Think about it. They like to read. They know your genre–they might even write in it. They know the ins and outs of indie pub, so if they like what they see they’re likely to leave you a review and maybe even give you a shout-out on a blog somewhere. They might have a little less time than the mythical ideal reader, due to book promotion, but if you’re a writer and you’ve stopped reading to promote your own novel, then frankly, you’ve failed as a goddamn writer. No more water can seep into a sponge that won’t get itself wet. Without reading–which, when you write, is part fun and part learning–you can’t continue to grow as a writer.

I know I, for one, have picked up a TON of books while investigating promotional sites for myself. For the same reason the ‘just reader’ of legend is supposed to–because a cover looks good, because a blurb is awesome, because someone’s tweets keep me amused. I’ve never read as much indie fiction as I do now, marketing my own indie novel. I think a lot of you guys who have your own novels out, if you think about it for a few minutes, will realize the same thing.

A note here: I don’t respond well to PRESSURE to buy. If you beg me, I probably won’t do it. Like any other reader, I’m turned off by desperation. I’m especially turned off by the pressure, it’s true, BECAUSE I’m also a writer–I don’t nance around begging you to read my book and leave a review, so why should you?

But if your book has

A) A visually interesting cover,
B) A witty and well-written blurb,
C) A decent price, and
D) Pretty good reviews,

I’ll bite. Just like any reader would.

What I’m saying, in short:

Don’t discount a promotional possibility because you ‘see few readers’. All those writers flooding the market are competition, true: they’re also potential buyers, potential readers, potential fans and friends. And they shouldn’t be discounted in those capacities.

Ta,
EFR

Also, because you knew it was happening sooner or later: buy my book.

Writing Wednesday: Twitter for Writers

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WW: Twitter for Writers

It’s about time I hitched up my Millennial skinny jeans and did this shit, right?

Let’s talk about Twitter. Let’s talk about it long and hard. Let’s talk about Twitter ’til the sun comes up. Or: in about a thousand words.

I’ve been active on Twitter, promoting my shiny little self, for about six months now. Not very long, but long enough to be sure of one thing: I’m not sure if it actually helps you sell books. (Like that? I always thought I was an attorney in a previous life, y’know.)

Sorry. I’m not sure it does. But it’s sold a few for me, and it’s definitely been a great source of promotion for this blog. And this blog DOES sell books. So is it useful?

Sure. In a roundabout way. When you put effort into it.

Long story short: there are multiple ways to make Twitter work for you. I see a lot of articles speaking in the ‘do this, NEVER this’ vein, and I get that, but I think people forget this fact about social media: it’s a malleable beast. There are few mistakes you can make (short of being absolutely shitty, of course) that you can’t UNMAKE. And there are different times to make each of these ways of using Twitter work for you.

Three functions, in essentia:

1) Delivering Helpful Content.
For me, this should be Twitter function A. This should be your main Twitterface–delivering helpful advice under the hashtags #writetip or #writingtips, retweeting other folks’, sharing helpful links, inspirational quotes. Nat Russo, whose blog is an amazing resource for independent writers, shared a great post about this here, and he goes into far better detail than I’m capable of.

A note here: for Twitter to really work for you, you should be delivering at least ten tweets (RTs included) a day. It’s not that much effort–hell, tweets are 140 characters or less–and the results are far better. Remember, all your followers have a lot of people THEY follow, and your tweets get pushed farther down on their activity lists every minute, every second, unless they’re retweeted by a mutual follower.

I don’t always make my daily ten. I try, but sometimes life gets in the way. I can tell you, though–my blog views DOUBLE when I do, and I usually sell a book or two as well. When you’re an indie author, visibility is the name of the game, and you want to be visible for good stuff. Which brings me to:

A Note: Don’t Retweet Random Shit. I mute spam, and I know I’m not the only one. Make your tweets count. Make them clever, funny, useful. At MAX, ten tweets a day is 1,400 characters. You could write more in your sleep. So put some thought into it: make your tweets things that’ll interest readers and fellow writers, and folks who follow the interests mentioned in your stories. And please God, don’t RT someone’s novel just because you feel obligated. Read the damn book. Offer it genuinely. If you recommend a lot of shitty books just because you feel like you have to, who’s going to trust you?

2) Networking
You’ve seen those people who have like 500 followers and 34K tweets, right? Unless they’re spam crazy, they’re spending a lot of time talking to other people on Twitter. You should spend some time doing this too: get to know people. Respond to funny tweets. Add your thoughts. Compliment somebody else on a useful link. Even if you aren’t a social butterfly, respond, respond, respond. People who aren’t already following you might see your comments and get interested. And, beyond that: you might make some damn friends. It’s good to have writer friends. You need somebody to grouse to.

Which brings me to another thing: have a goddamn personality. Seriously, don’t be afraid to use a few tweets to make conversation. Keep the personal pretty quiet, but the occasional post about your funny cat or your kids makes you human. And your fans, who we’re assuming are following you on Twitter, will be thrilled to see your #amwriting updates, and a few teasers from your work in progress. Some of my bestest, most-retweeted tweets have been stuff about my own book.

3) Spam I Am.
You shouldn’t do it a lot. It’s bad form, and like I said, people will mute or stop following you if you toot your own horn constantly. But at the same time, if it’s book release day, and you want people to know? Spam. Spammy spammy spam spam. Let people know every hour on the hour. Posted a blog today, a few pictures, a poem on Wattpad? Let People Know. Two or three times on the launch day is probably sufficient for a blog or a little thing, but if your book is free or just came out? Jesus Candycrunching Christ, don’t be afraid to shout it out. People will forgive you for a day or two of it–especially if you post an advance apology (“Sorry guys, but my book comes out today, so there’s going to be spam salad for every tea party for a little while. #mustread #amreading”).

So there you go, some thoughts on Twitter. For me, an average day should consist of:

6 Writing Tips/Helpful Links
2 Cute comments/writing funnies
1 Off topic post
1 Self Promo/Like My Shit type post.
As many conversational comments as you like!

And, just to round off the post, here’s some shit about hashtags. Hashtags make all the difference, and if you don’t know what they are I’m not going to tell you, because you can just google ‘hashtags’ and eight billion other bloggers will tell you better than me. I will say, however, if you already know:

You can analyze your tweets, their potential reach, and the popularity of certain hashtags at this website. I prefer it over hashtags.org, and it’s useful just to know what’s popular recently and what isn’t. It’s also a pretty good indicator of the sort of experience people have had using popular hashtags.

Here are a few hashtags you really should be using:

For writing:
#amwriting (this is the most popular. Stick it EVERYWHERE.)
#amediting (for when you are doing this.)
#writerslife
#writerproblems (Good for your cheeky fun writerly tweets.)
#writetip (Good for guess what.)
#writingtips
#writerwednesday (on guess which day)
#FF (Follow Friday, for recommending great writers to follow on Fridays. Warning: if you do this, and you accept update emails from Twitter, prepare for your inbox to die.)

Also, genre-related tags such as #Fantasy, #Romance, #Horror, etc. As applicable; good to combine these with #amwriting or #writetip.

A note: I’m still looking for a viable and currently popular hashtag for novel lines and teaser bits. If anyone’s got a good one, let me know and I’ll add it in here.

For blog promotion:
#SundayBlogShare (especially on Sundays, obviously. You can use it any old day, but I’ve had GREAT results using this on Sundays. Don’t forget to check out a few other folks’ blogs too.)
#MondayBlog (especially on Wednesday. Just kidding.)
#amblogging (any old day)
#wwwblog (on Wednesdays) for women writers, on Wednesdays.
Such basics as #blogging, #blog, #blogger won’t kill you either. I recommend combining any of these beauties with a hashtag indicating what your blog is ABOUT (#amwriting, #amediting, #gardening, #pooping, whatever).

The lovely and talented Allison Maruska recommends #Archiveday on Saturday as well.

Book Promo:
#mustread
#IndieBooksBeSeen (Fantastic. One of my favs, and again, remember to reciprocate).
#amreading
#SelfPub, #indiepub, #independentauthor, #indieauthor
#Amazon, #Kindle, #KOBO etc. As applicable.

Also, you might want to consider joining #IARTG, the Independent Authors’ Retweet Group, or #IAN1, the Independent Authors’ Network.  This last costs a little money, at least $25, but they will RT the SHIT out of you all year, so you don’t have to do it on your own profile, and are, in general, a bunch of very nice people one way or the other.

If you have any good trendy writey hashtags, add them in comments, and I’ll put them up here (and thank you from the bottom of my rotten little heartmuscle). (Allison suggests #1LineWednesday. Thanks, from the heartmuscle.)

When using hashtags, you should use no fewer than one and no more than four per tweet. It’s good to combine genre specific tags (#Fantasy, #SF, etc.) with general writing tags (#IndiePub, #amreading), and possibly a mode of consumption (#Kindle, #Amazon, #KOBO, #Smashwords), when promoting. If you’re writing a novel with, say, a lot of spelunking in it, you might want to look into some spelunking hashtags (yes, #spelunking, I am looking at you).

So there you go. Twitter.

By the way, buy my book.

Okay. Thanks.
EFR