Monthly Archives: December 2014

Waffles and editors.

It was about time I heard some good news about progress since I have finished my first draft. I have found an editor that can edit in both Afrikaans and English. Since I have abandoned my mother tongue thus far in my writing exploits it is good to know I can always write one for the locals. We live in a global village and that will always be my focus. Afrikaans isn’t even a continental language by a long shot. It is only found on a large scale in two countries. So back to the language of the people who colonized the world and back to editing my first novel.

I wanted to find an editor, but friends of ours already knew one. I am an independent author, so for me this is a very big thing. Independence in South Africa is almost always a must. It would have taken me many years to grow a relationship with a South African publisher and then I wouldn’t even be allowed to sell my novel abroad. I first would have to prove myself with the locals. That’s the big problem. Very few people I know read. I bet very few South Africans read and I remember an Afrikaans poem that explained this. It blamed the good weather and love of sports for a type of cultural demise. I agree to some extent.

Even if I ignore this and try to win the readers of my country I am competing with international writers, but not just on my genre. The biggest readers I know are girls and the biggest authors among them are that of young adlt. The other day I saw a mother trying to push a Stephen King book on her child. Interestingly enough I am pretty sure she did not pick up a King novel. I don’t read King either, so I can’t judge him in any way.

So it was a breath of fresh air when  I heard about this editor in a small town nearby. According to legend I need to eat waffles with her. You won’t see me fighting, because that sounds like a good deal to me.

sCold comes the night terror

I am not afraid of many things. I don’t have many phobias, but the ones I have are so highly irrational that I keep them to myself and debate my conscience into oblivion. Every other night I lie there thinking: What if I wake up tomorrow and I lose my ability to tell stories. I hate that thought. I’d much rather be chased by a monster probably because I can extract a story to tell from that. In fact I love to have nightmares, because they work like stories.

So I wake up and start speaking  to myself and my characters. ”What if?”

That is probably the strongest line a writer can speak and also the biggest danger. What if the readers and critics hate me? What if I get a two star review and then another? What if my mom never makes me coffee again? What if I am so poor one day that I can’t even buy coffee or what if I grow intolerant to caffeine? What if I get panned by critics and have to hide in a cave for years?What if these what if questions become so boring that my fellow bloggers leave it?

A year ago, a sixteen year old boy asked the question: what if I write a novel? Simple yet so elegant. And then I started to ask myself some questions. Characters and plots became a tide of water and I did not care what the world thought. The story I wrote is my biggest gain. I got to know some imaginary people. I had fun. I am not a positive speaker yahoo. I know life sucks and that is how I see so many plots around me, but I will keep my phobias at bay by reminding myself why I write.

Post your most irrational fear if you want to. By the way I am not afraid of heights and no that afraid of falling… I am afraid of breaking my body after the fall, but oh am I in love with climbing. That’s true and also an analogy for writing.

The lenses we gain

I doubt many authors will disagree with me if I told them they changed the way they look at life literally. I am talking about observational skill and effort to observe. It became so natural after I became I writer. I would look at people and see characters and listen to their worries and their joy to see plots. It became a nuisance quite frankly, because an author can’t resist and perhaps that is a good thing. I am the kind of author that will only write a sentence then start writing a novel. So it became a good bad habit to observe people and situations. I think about their lives and their jobs and how that can be translated into a work of fiction.

I believe many authors do this because they know what is necessary to stay ahead. Tell tales. Simple as that and we don’t want to tell the same thing over and over again. We want to be innovative, but since true originality doesn’t exist it is nice to ”borrow” certain pieces from peoples lives and create a story. I can exaggerate their role and I probably will. I am a collector. I break down and I build up. A piece here… a piece there. That kind of thing works for me. I have my own creativity and certain aspects that I clearly thought up somewhere. The chances are that I got the information somewhere. This is what we do. We need to tell tales worth telling. We need to tell them well.

That said it, is good to read, but I won’t say necessarily to get ideas but rather to improve skill. Ideas can be found anywhere. I mean anywhere. Under a plant or on your roof or in a coffee shop. Mmmm coffee. I am currently reading Sand by Hugh Howey and I will write a review later.

Watch and Tell

No one wants to be branded a Jack of all trades, because ever since mankind became dumb we only thought of  the ”master of none” tail to the saying. However, this was not always so.  In the old days some people did many things and were great at some and good at others. Some were masters at many trades. This used to be positive saying. This is my refutation to the argument that specialists are always better. I am not saying that being a specialist is bad, but if we take writing as a skill with different aspects and different genres many people will call themselves an ”insert genre here” writer.

Now, how can this only apply to the creation of fiction, but not in the observation? Few skills are as writing where there is a great relationship between user (reader) and creator(writer). The statement that a writer needs to keep to a certain genre and get good at it rather than do one and then another is absurd considering we like different tales. Sure, we like some more than others and loathe certain genres, but again this boils down to a thing called taste. No one can convince me that a great writer of any genre can’t attempt to write a novel in another. The only reason many writer’s stick to one or two is because it has worked before and they do really like it. In fact many people will grow to only write in a few genres.

My first novel is horror, but this is not the only type of novel I’ll ever write. I had a story to tell and I did. My second novel is going to be science fiction. I always had a tendency to write science fiction for school. I know I will complete this story. However, it can be guaranteed that my second novel will be written better, because writing is a skill improving in a detached manner from it’s genre. It improves as a whole. The writing of a certain genre does improve, but this can easily be accomplished and this increase in skill is nothing compared to what writing does to a writer as a whole. Your mind does not shift from thriller to drama, but you do apply your skills differently. You may want to focus on atmosphere in the former and maybe more on relationships in the latter. This may also vary. You can’t put a definite genre on your life and neither can you do it to your characters. So stick to what you are good at, but be good at learning so you can stick to what you love… writing.

There’s no rocket age

Let me tell you right now that I hate to classify books in age groups. I do believe that there should be books for young kids to learn about stories, but do not dare to tell me when you are thirteen your mind can’t comprehend good stories or that you do need certain genres to read fiction. Genres should be personality bound and not age bound. Also, I don’t believe we all only like one type of story. Certainly certain types appeal to us, but that’s where it ends. This is my pain with the Young Adult hype. I am not a hater of the genre. However, there are certain things I can’t wrap my mind around. The best novels are those that appeal to all ages.

I know the young adult counter arguments. I should say hype rather as that is what bothers me. That this generation wants guidance in an unsure world yadda yadda. I read about their arguments. This is where dimensions come into play. Are your stories so deep that only an ancient Greek philosopher can decipher it and be wrong too or are your stories so shallow that it makes the Twilight romances look good. That was a cheap shot and I’ll admit that. Certain aspects of the famous Hunger Games do not makes sense to me, but that is nitpicking and truth be told I did like the Hunger Games. What I’m getting at is a style of writing that appeals to everyone. This can be found in television too and the genre where this blossoms is animation. Take Up as an example of a film that appeals to all ages. Young children may not get the double meanings or some of the depth, but the character that is a child keeps them hooked. Another important thing to note is that  the two main characters are opposite and young and old can relate. If I take literature, the Little Prince is one of my favourite novels ever. It is a small book written by a French guy. On the surface it appeals to children, but from page one you can tell that teenagers won’t even comprehend its depth. This is not a novel for all ages, but I like the way it blurs the lines. Some people argue that that is exactly what young adult fiction has done. That is an absurd statement. Worst of all the hype began after someone had received a lot of success. Pray tell me how many authors do you think started a new young adult novel when someone received international acclaim.  I may be wrong, but unless the reason for this is an absolute love for the new authors owns story there is something seriously wrong.

This is not rocket science and I wish all authors were like this (in love with their own stories), but if a hint of greed enters an author’s mind it pollutes the story telling mind.

Pretty Bad

When done right this character will always attract people. We love to hate them and sometimes we love to sympathize with them. All stories need the effect of war. A civil war, a metaphor for inner conflict or more often than not just plain war. For this we need circumstances and usually of course an effective antagonist. All stories don’t need them, but aren’t they just so interesting to work with?

Antagonists. I can spend hours telling people why I like them. Sometimes I can’t pinpoint it, but it is the truth. What would Batman be had the Joker never existed. He’d be alright, but let’s agree he would be much less. This has to do with the mysterious part of some antagonists. We seldom go into their point of view, but they play an integral part in our stories. Sometimes they are just so well defined and this can be seen in their action and then they turn out to be a rounder character than the protagonist. There are a bunch of antagonist types and I won’t even dare to say I know all of them, but I will discuss the two main branches.

The delusional type who believe they are doing right and the other type the: evil embracer. There may be a balance between the two types as a character believes some of the things he has done can be wrong. What many authors often miss when working with arcs is the antagonist’s arc. This is not always possible as the antagonists isn’t usually the main character, but when working with an antagonist you can work with his moral decline or increase and this is a very interesting subject.

Most often we don’t see the deluded bad guy in his extreme state because that shifts the focus on the antagonists. It is thus understandable, but I adore the deluded antagonist, because some readers will have sympathy with the character. That said, most antagonists are deluded to morality in general. They do what is right for them. What is the difference then between the deluded bad guy and the one that embraces evil. Simple, the embracing part. It is all about belief in what is right and wrong. If the character admits what he is doing is wrong, but does it anyway you will know he isn’t deluded. The Joker for example blatantly admits he embraces chaos. This is not delusion. However, most of the times we have a mixture of delusion and admittance of evil doing. Then we can still tell by their intentions.

A big question that many antagonists will face and will give away whether they are believing in a lie is if the end justifies the means. An evil embracer doesn’t even bother with the question. That is a tell tale sign: The “I don’t care about justify, I do what profits me.” Some will argue that that in itself is a justification from their view. That justice doesn’t matter. It’s a dog eat dog world. The truth is you will know the balance and if your antagonist is truly evil. When it comes to video games and movies I remember the quotes of those antagonists. In videogames the antagonist is usually the focus and that is why I love them probably. IF you are familiar with Borderlands, two words… Handsome Jack. This guy actually was some hero, he did save lives and he hated the idea of murder, but then the disillusioned part kicked in. He got stabbed in the back by heroes who thought that he would turn evil with power. (they maybe had a point) This in turn turned him into a vengeance seeking maniac. He is a well defined antagonist and his wit is amusing at worst.

You will know you have a great antagonist if you off him. If you don’t, just imagine you ending him. If it makes you sad… well and if it makes you feel pretty bad… just know that the bad can be pretty sometimes and authors need to utilize this.

It is holiday, now the work begins

After three and a half weeks of exams I am glad to get back to my work. My real work, writing fiction. This holiday I have to finish my first draft of my novel, maybe today… also I need to find an editor.

After reading and talking with people, I like the idea of self publishing. For me it is all about reach, and uhh of course royalties, but let’s go with reach. In South Africa there are few international publications if you are not great. So a publisher may like my work or not, but if the people do not and I still get published I am stuck in my country and my country is not big on reading, compared to other nations of course. Some blame the awesome weather. Or love of sports or both. This may be a reason, but back to what I was saying. A little more than a year ago, I was writing an essay. This essay has turned into 73000 words through my grade 11 year. A very important year. I managed to write on weekends and holidays, but the more I wrote the more I got addicted to it. I realized something. I realized that writing made me feel good and without it I felt worse than I had before I started writing. I can never go back to not writing. Sure, I take breaks, but the old mind works differently. Today, I wrote down eight ideas I know will turn into novels one day, while I was at the grocer. This is not normal. My cellphone’s note application is littered with random sentences and ideas. I like it that way.

Those of you who have visited my blog, know I don’t plot, but I do draw beginnings, sometimes literally- hooray for stick men- and also endings. That is what I do. Now that my break has ended I have a lot of work to do. However, with the amount of joy I receive from editing and writing I don’t know if work is the right word, but it probably is. So, wherever you find yourself, winter or summer during this December or work or holiday go ahead and write if you have time. I know I will.