2017: A Year of Projects and Broken Rules

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Welcome to 2017!

A new year has dawned. It’s time for a fresh start, and (hopefully) some new luck. It’s also time to start looking at what to get done this year. I’ve spent the last few days coming up with a list of projects that I aim to complete.

My 7 Things To Do:

1. Get book deal.
This hasn’t changed from the previous years, but I’m really hoping that I have better luck this year.

2. Write TTS (Sin’s history).
The title will be revealed in my January 30th post, so stay tuned for that. BOMBSHELL ALERT! The outline is growing so much that I’ve decided to break it up into two books. Yes, you read that right. Sin is getting two books.

3. Write TSF (AEON 5).
Title to be revealed later this year; probably during NaNoWriMo.

4. Redesign the covers of The AEON Files.
As I previously stated, the cover for The Bone Prophet is so well liked that I want to redo the others to mirror its design. Once they’re all redone, they might go into a boxed set once the new covers are in place. I just have to figure out how to design the box.

5. Start work on Shadow Works.
These are the side jobs that interweave through events in The AEON Files to help fill in the blank spaces between books.

6. Pass my writing MasterClass.
A special gift I received from my mom. I’m sure it helped that she’s a fan of James Patterson, but she and I both hope that this class helps get my foot even further into the proverbial door and closer to that elusive book deal.

7. Overhaul website to include store and mailing list additions.
I don’t have time to do a monthly newsletter on top of all the other stuff, so I’ve scratched the Otherworld Primer idea. However, those who sign up for the mailing list will still get benefits like advance copies and early-bird deals.

And that’s just the writing-related tasks. I still have commissions to do and personal goals to meet. But what I really hope to do is exhibit at one of the big expos like Book Expo America or Dragon*Con. Unfortunately, since I don’t have several thousand to spend on such a lucrative possibility, this goal will have to wait.

But, while I’m on the subject of writing appearances, I have shown up to a couple small ones (Twin Cities Book Fest and NDSU Grand Forks Writer’s Conference). Many of the people I’ve met tend to say that there are no rules to writing. Or, if there are, no one knows what they are. But if you look online, you’ll find a whole bunch of ’em. I’ve gone through quite a few of those lists, and came up with…

10 Writing Rules Worthy of Breaking

1. Write what you know.
Worst. Rule. EVER! If I followed this rule, I never would have written a word. Or, if I did, every story would be about a bored girl’s uneventful life in a small town, which is currently buried under several feet of snow.
A more accurate rule would be: Write what you WANT to know. A perfect example of this would be AEON 2. Before I wrote The Lycan Pharaoh, the only thing I really knew about Ancient Egypt came from what little I was taught about it in school and from watching The Mummy. Wanting to write the book made me want to know more, and prompted me into all the research behind the story.

So remember: don’t write what you know; write what you want to know.

2. Show, Don’t tell.
Since I write in first person POV most of the time, I typically end up using tell more than show. Showing always brings thoughts of poetry to the forefront of my mind since it tends to have more dramatic words. I still utilize sensory information, dramatic action, and detailed images, but they play alongside abstract statements.

If you’re not sure what the difference is, let me paint you a couple of pictures…

Example of showing:
Pink petals fluttered from the trees like cotton-candy snow in the spring sun.

Example of telling:
Petals fell from the blooming trees on a sunny day.

Both ways convey the same thing, but showing has more flowery words and drama.

3. Know your audience.
While it’s a good idea to know who you’re aiming to market your book to, you really shouldn’t be overly specific. The lines between audience types are often blurred. How else do you explain why adults enjoy kids movies and books? Saying a book is only for 13-to-17-year-olds is like saying a birthday cake can only be enjoyed by the birthday kid.

4. Kill your darlings.
No, Stephen King, I don’t believe killing off characters is a requirement for a good book. Unless it moves the plot along or forces a character into a specific action (eg, seeking revenge like Xyleena or Sin), killing people off isn’t a necessity. That being said, I’ve killed off a few minor characters, and, in books to come, will be killing off even more.

*grabs the axe*

5. Write for the market.
The market is always changing. This is because people’s tastes and the latest fads are always changing. Just like diet trends, the hottest thing today may be obsolete tomorrow. If green caterpillars were suddenly all the rage so you start writing a book about a green caterpillar, by the time it’s edited and published and on the shelves, people might have already moved on to purple monkeys.

Even anticipating market changes is difficult. Just like your audience, it’s a good idea to know about it, but don’t limit yourself to specifics.

6. Write daily.
I can’t speak for other authors, but I need to take some time away from my writing so that I can recharge my creative writing juices. It’s sort of like farming. Planting the same crop over and over again drains all the goodness out of the soil. While writing daily is a good habit, consider switching things up. Brake the next rule and work on more than one project.

Personally, I usually end up painting something.

7. Finish writing one thing before starting another.
This doesn’t work for me because it often causes writer’s block. Plus, I’m writing a number of series, some of which intertwine with each other (eg, Mars Chronicles and Dragon Diaries, Shadow Works and The AEON Files), so an idea in one book will probably come back into play in another.

It’s also a good idea to take some time away from a specific project lest you hit said writer’s block, which has happened to me so many times that I’ve lost count. And nobody says you have to write in chronological order either. I’ve started writing books in the middle and at the end, and I’ve skipped over huge sections before going back to them.

But you have to do what works best for you.

8. Do not use words longer than 5 letters.
Seriously? The gentleman behind this peculiar literary principle is assuredly mistaken.
Yeah, I’m being a smart ass, but why should I put such a limit on my vocabulary? This is definitely one rule I will not be obliged to follow… Much like the next one.

9. Don’t use more than 2 or 3 exclamation points per 100,000 words.
Having written quite a few action sequences, I can honestly say that I have more than two or three exclamation points in Dragon Diaries: Ascension and Dragon Diaries: Culmination, which, when combined, total over 230,000 words. There’s probably more than two in The Bone Prophet, which currently sits at over 60,000 words.

Heck! This post has more than three!

10. Avoid Prologues.
[Insert hysterical laugh here.] All six of my books have prologues. Culmination even has an epilogue. In The AEON Files, I like to use them as teasers for what’s to happen later, and kick start readers’ brains into trying to figure out how the book got to that specific point. Dragon Diaries was a dream sequence that set the stage for the quest for the dragons.

BONUS! Avoid using adjectives unless describing size, color, or number.
Another ridiculous rule from the same guy who said not to use words longer than five letters. I guess he doesn’t much care for painting a quality picture with his words (showing) since he can’t describe any nouns in his writing. If I called his writing stale or uninteresting, I’d be in violation of his rule.

There’s probably more writing rules out there that I’m actively breaking on purpose or by accident. For right now though, these are the top ten.

But time is already fluttering swiftly by, and I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’ll be back next week with another post. Until next time!

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