Some Words About POV

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and for most people it’s the kick-off to summer. It occurred to me Wednesday that in my job (thankfully) it’s almost always summer. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m just saying this because I caught sight of the passage of time. And from thoughts of what I was doing last Memorial Day, or that time I was in high school and had to play baritone saxophone in a parade, it got me thinking about point of view in storytelling.

Also, on Wednesday night at my workshop there were a few questions about POV, and I got kind of amazed that people still had questions about it, even though I thought this topic has been aggressively beaten to death. So let’s talk POV. We’ll start with a definition and then deal with some common pitfalls.

What is it?
Point of View is the lens through which the reader receives the story. That’s it. It is NOT the lens through which the character interacts and lives the story and it is most certainly not a “gimmick” that writers do in order to get Pavlovian praise from agents and book reviewers.

I make a distinction between how the reader receives the story and how a character goes through the story, because every character goes through the story in the first-person. (Just like all of us, we’re all only ever in first person). What the POV does is take those character-first-person experiences and organize them in a particular way as the story needs.

Organize them how, you mean like shuffle them around from chapter to chapter?
Oh no. No no. Super double no. Don’t do that. Don’t hop, skip, and jump through POVs because you ‘want to put us [the readers] in different characters’ heads. That’s…well, that’s sort of like announcing you’re an amateur while waving flares and a big banner shoots up behind you saying “I don’t know any better.” Don’t do that.

But George RR Martin does it!
First, you are not George RR Martin. (I mean you could be, but really, if actual-GRRM is reading this blog, then I’m oblivious to my audience). Second, no he doesn’t. He changes the focus between characters, but never the POV. He doesn’t randomly jump from third-person Tyrion to first-person Brienne to second-person guy-next-to-a-guy-with-an-axe.

When you establish a POV, you’re creating a little center to the particular universe of your story. Now maybe this universe exists for the duration of a whole book, or maybe it’s just a chapter, but this POV is throughout the whole created-universe, not the character. POV is not a character.

Huh?
Let’s say you’re writing a version of……Romeo and Juliet. And you want to make your version to what Romeo sees, his experiences, the reader follows on Romeo’s shoulder, that sort of thing. So you make Romeo the narrator and tell this story in the first-person.

So anything Romeo does or thinks is going to be with an “I” involved (I did this, I think that, etc). And anytime another character does something, it’s in the third-person, because this is Romeo’s story, he’s telling it, and we’re (Romeo + reader) seeing this through Romeo’s eyes.

Just because a new character comes into the scene doesn’t mean we need to be in their head while Romeo’s telling the story. This is the narrator’s story, we see what they see, we discover what they do when they do…it’s sort of the beauty of first person.

But I’m not writing first-person.
Okay, so you’re overseeing a whole load of people. Then your POV is as if you’re looking down from the skies onto this whole diorama of your story, and the narrator, although not a character directly in the story is relating to us what’s going on. You don’t have to crack open the minds of every character for the reader to understand the story.

Yes I do. How else will they know what’s going on?
If you write well enough AND trust your readers, they’ll figure out what’s going on. Here’s an example:


John sits in his office. While writing his blog post, the rain falls outside and a truck pulls up across the street. From the truck emerges a man, who brings with him from the truck a clipboard. He then checks notes and walks to the blue house. The dog barks. More rain falls. John goes back to writing. 

Okay, that’s not very well written, and I didn’t have any character actively thinking anything, or did I? I implied that John is thinking (because he’s writing a blog post) and implied the dog must be thinking (it’s barking) and even the guy from the truck has to be thinking (he’s checking notes on a clipboard)…but in order to tell you that story, did I have to sit down, hold your hand and explain to you what everyone was thinking? Or was there enough detail there to somewhat picture the scene?

So, the POV depends on the narrator?
Yes. If the narrator is an active participant in the story they’re telling, then the reader is going to be limited in the scope of what they read — If I’m telling you the story of what I did over the weekend, I’m only telling you about what I did. There’s no mention of what happened half the world away in Guam or what somebody in Moscow was going to do.

If the narrator is playing puppetmaster and we get to watch them pull the strings and make characters dance, there may still be a limit on what information we get at a certain time. Because the author of the story can only describe so much at a given time. (Because, in part, the author is human and even though they control the whole entirety of their story, you can’t compress EVERY thought into the same sentence.)

What can I do?
Okay, let’s set some rules.

1. When you set up a POV, you’re tied to it. Not quite as bad as a cell phone contract, but it’s not a decision of whimsy. Pick a lens, and stick with it.

2. Avoid as best you can the desire or need to switch characters (yet stay in the same POV) because it does NOT tell the story more effectively. It’s does two things instead:
a) weakens your story’s pace, construction and cohesiveness
Why? Because if you’re locked into first-person, but the “I” character constantly changes, the reader can’t follow the story easily. Let the narrator dictate how the story is parsed to readers, and if Narrator X isn’t good enough, rather than adding Narrator Y and Narrator Z to the mix, make X better.
b) demonstrates that you’re a weak/poor/cowardly (yeah, I said it) writer.
Why? Because switching POV is a crutch. Sure it “tells the story most completely” but does it actual make you a better writer for doing it? Sure it’s hard and scary to stick with one narrative voice all the way through a story, but (in case you’ve forgotten) storytelling is an art and a craft, and it’s not supposed to be cakewalk simple. If that frightens you, maybe you shouldn’t be writing. Throw away the crutches and walk on your own legs.

3. “Bleed on a drip.” That means rather than just spew forth a litany of narrative elements (clues, story development, emotions, ideas) in some great wrist-slit pool and hold out hope that the reader can navigate it all and somehow share your vision (by the way, if you call your story a ‘vision’ it makes you sound like a knob) at the end, you control the pace. (Note: this takes talent and practice and edits and practice and talent.) Meter out when the reader gets certain details, and use the POV as the valve for that.

4. Want to know how to fix your POV issues? Talk to an editor! If you sequester yourself away (either intentionally or worse, you cry poor and say you can’t afford to talk to outside people, or out of fear that people won’t waah waah like you — sorry, that argument really bugs me. Cowards. You want to get better, ask for help) then you’re never going to fix your mistakes. Sure you might bury them deep in subtext or only make them once or twice…but that’s one or two times too many and certainly visible to a reader, subtext or not.

And with that, I’m hopping off my soapbox and getting ready to enjoy my Memorial Day Weekend with a stack of books at the beach house. There will be NO blogpost Monday, because I won’t be near a PC until Tuesday at the earliest.

Happy writing, have a great weekend. Rock on.

The ‘Aspiring’ Writer Syndrome / The Crazies

Good morning everyone.

I’m assuming I’m the only one of us who woke up this morning from a horrendous nightmare where I had to exorcise Satan out of Jerry Springer? Yeah, that’ll teach me to eat an eighth of a chicken breast at 11:30 at night.

Today, continuing the new blog policy of speaking honestly with you, I want to take a look at one of the big sentences that I hear a lot of writers say, and then we’ll look at something that happened over the weekend. (though not to me, my weekend was pretty awesome, I washed dishes by hand, fought with an air conditioner (it won), and ultimately stressed myself out over something incredibly stupid that I misheard.)

First up, let’s look at this sentence. Now while I can’t possibly know how YOU say it, I’m going to go with the version I hear a lot.

“Aspiring” Syndrome

I’m an aspiring writer.”
Now I hear / read this in the comments of blogs (usually of other writers) or hear it at workshops, I immediately follow it up with “How’s the writing coming?” because what they really mean is this:

I’m not published yet.”

Sometimes I point this out and whoever I’m talking to makes a face at me, this sort of “why are you talking about X, when I’m talking about Y” face. But, to avoid that face, I usually nod and the conversation moves along.

There are two problems with this train of thought.

i. That getting published is proof that you’re a writer.
ii. That “aspiring” means something that it doesn’t actually mean.

Saying that getting published is the proof you require to be a writer is like saying that you’re only a gardener when you’re chopping homegrown tomatoes for the salad. What about the time you spent in the dirt, the times you watered the plants and did whatever you had to so as to prevent deer and fungus from taking over? That stuff doesn’t count?

Coming back to the writing, are you saying that the act of writing doesn’t make you a writer? The hours spent hitting keys or scribbling in notebooks doesn’t count? Getting up an hour earlier than everyone else was what, a waste of time?

Here’s what makes you a writer – putting your ass in a chair and putting your brain and fingers to work in telling a story.

Publishing doesn’t make you a writer. It makes you published. You were a writer before you got published, and you’ll be a writer after you get published (assuming you write more). It’s not the peak of a mountain, leading to some downward return to the flat land of boring hobbies; it’s the start of a journey across many peaks and valleys. (Insert other statement about journeys not destinations here).

Likewise, “aspiring” means “desiring or striving for recognition or advancement“. Desiring and striving are not really very active. Desiring is a mental process (right now I’m desiring it not be raining, and yet the water still falls from the sky) and striving is a vague word that sort of implies something’s going on, and it’s trying to succeed, but without a clearer verb, I have no idea what is actually happening.

Calling yourself an aspiring writer is basically telling me “One day I’m going to write something, in the future, not now, not in the relative present, but you know later, like when it’s not so scary and/or when I’m not feeling overwhelmed by my own doubts, insecurities and expectations that it has to be perfect or else people will drive me from my home via fire and sharp sticks.”

You know what I am? I’m an aspiring husband. I want one day in the future to be married. I’m not married now, but it’s something I want to be later.

I’m also an aspiring hug recipient. I’ve not yet been hugged today, but I’d like to be in the near future.

Don’t aspire. Go be it. Write, and be a writer….I was going to say “Go crazy”, but that leads me to the next part of today’s post….

Don’t Be A Crazy
So over the weekend, this happened. Here’s the short version:

1. A guy went on a message board angry that his posts on said message board kept getting moved from one place to another.
2. The guy pointed out that his books (the subject of his posts) are published by himself, but he is in no way a self-publisher.
3. He points out that he’s got 92k Twitter followers.
4. He draws the connection that self-publishing equals “small”, and that’s a bad thing.

Of course many people got involved here, with the usual finger-pointing, laughing and jeering at “that guy”. They talked about his arrogance, they talked about his books being poorly written (I have no idea if they are or not, I’ve never heard of him, never read his stuff or even knew what he wrote until I read that article) and they also brought along the Perennial Internet Argument.

The PIA (if you don’t know) is this: “That guy’s a dick, I’m way better/cooler/smarter/more attractive because of A B C D reasons.”

There is a huge problem with the PIA. It makes whatever situation where it’s invoked about YOU, not the ‘other guy’. Is the above mentioned guy putting out a really clear example of what-not-to-do? Absolutely. Is that a sign that you need to justify what you’re doing? Nope.

The problem with crazies (and crazy knows no race, gender, preference or field…crazy don’t discriminate) is that they’re loud. And while on the internet it may seem like a brief blip on the radar, that same internet is housing that outburst for however-long-data-is-stored, so it can be brought right back up for later — like a hairball or those photos of you from the summer you thought it would be awesome to have a mullet.

Loud crazies get heard. And sometimes other people’s volume can throw doubts into your head. Somebody starts screaming that Company X is bad, and you start to wonder if it’s worth your time to deal with Company X. Someone tells you that a popular video game experiences occasional server issues in its first week out, you may decide to never buy anything from that game company again.

To combat this, I first hand you one of these because it’s dangerous to go alone. Then I will direct you to a mirror and tell you that you’re YOU. Not me, not that other guy. Not that lady on Facebook. Not even the same YOU you were last year when you thought it would be a great idea to drink vinegar twice a day.

All you can do is be the best you possible. You make the best art possible.You do everything you can to be a better writerThen you work even harder. And then you find a good community of people that will support you and encourage you and help you.

Don’t let the crazies speak for everyone, especially not yourself. Don’t let the crazies cause you any doubt about what you want to do.

Unless of course, you’re the crazy in this instance, at which point I’ll state this. And this. And lastly this.

Happy writing.

Sound the Feasting Horn!

This series of Snickers commercials always made me happy, especially the exuberant Viking and his Feasting Horn. I’ve heard a lot of authors talk about how hard they work and how much they love their projects, but the conversation so often grinds to a halt with some variation of this sentence coming out of their mouths.

“I just wish people would ask me about the book, or they’d search me out, so that I didn’t have to talk to them.”

And just after I pick my jaw up off the floor, and just after I explain just how easy (and possibly enjoyable) it can be to talk about something you both believe in and are passionate about, they say something like,

“You make it sound so easy, but I just can’t do it.”

And usually I have to bite my tongue at this point and say, “Well…” and then go on about my day. But this is my blog, so I don’t have to hold back here.

1. Okay, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but IT CAN BE DONE. Yes, I’m hugely biased about how easy it is to talk about what I’m doing, because it’s my job, I love my job and this is pretty much all I do, unless you want to talk about comics, games, nerdy things or my favorite things to do while half-asleep. I didn’t fly out of the womb knowing how to do this, I didn’t even really get a good handle on the first ten years I was doing it. But I learned, and that’s principally because I tried until I got it “right” (“Right” as in, I got the results I wanted). I didn’t get it right the first time, so I kept trying, and the more I tried the easier and more familiar the actions became.

2. No one is going to ask you about what you’re doing if you don’t tell them. I have met a lot of people. Some of them even claimed to be mind readers. They weren’t, and to date I haven’t met anyone who’s really honed their mindcraft to Professor X levels. So, unless you’re talking about what you’re doing somewhere (in person, on the internet, via smoke signals, whatever), how are people going to know what you’re doing? And as a side note, if you follow this up with “But people do know….” then I’m assuming you should be telling MORE people, because the ones you did tell didn’t get as excited as you hoped. Also, it’s possible that HOW you told them didn’t inspire them to action, so you may want to consider working on that.

3. Face the facts. I’m sorry if this is cold or hard to hear, but there’s no way around this:

If people don’t know that you’ve got a book either available for sale or in development, how are they supposed to know that they can get it?

And if you’re not talking about what you’re doing, either out of cowardice, fear of rejection, or some kind of faux-humility (I don’t want to talk about what I do because I don’t want people to think that I’m conceited), then why are you even bothering to do a task that expressly creates a product to be shared?

And what sort of lazy coward are you that you to just create things in some vain hope that random people by the truck load will just one day bump into you and say “Gee wilikers, I’ve been looking my whole life for exactly these things, and I just so happen to have bazillions of dollars I’m not using. We should trade dollars for your product” ?

Is this fear that keeps you from celebrating your successes? And before people can even deem your work “crap”, you’ve gone ahead and done it for them? If so, then you have no reason to bitch that your books aren’t selling, that your contracts aren’t getting picked up and that you’re not the popular kid in the cafeteria.

It is impossible to sell something without people knowing it’s available.
If you think your product is shit, it is.
If you think people will hate your product, they will.
If you love your product and you did your absolute best making it and you’re ridiculously proud of it and you love talking about the experience and what it’s taught you, there is no way it will be seen as crap.

But it won’t sell in the bazillions and set me up as being financially comfortable for the rest of my days so that I can sit in my palatial estate and read books while oogling the poolboys, you say.

And that’s true. I’m really sorry that in today’s world you didn’t capture lightning in the bottle and corner the ever fickle market on some concept, taking the pop culture world by storm. And I’m doubly sorry that even if you did, you’d realize that the second something new came along, you’d get put out to pasture.

Now, if you’re a one-and-done sort of creator, then you’ll be in the esteemed company of Pogs, Pet Rocks, those slap bracelet things that were confiscated at school and the band Los del Rio.

But, let’s suppose you want to do the one project and it goes well, but you don’t push forward to repeat that success and you forever want to be known as the person who ‘did that one thing’. How long is that going to work for you? Look at actors, do you think they like being known forever as what they did when they were 12?

This is a time when you have to branch out, try again, and keep logs on the burning fires of your creativity. Always be working, be producing, be creating. It will keep you happier, encourage you, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and seriously make a difference in the quality of your day.

4. Either do it or not do it. Make your moments, don’t wait for them. Fashion is cyclical, and I’m just waiting for grunge to come back into social dress. I’ve got some flannels and old jeans and my Nirvana playlist all set. While I’m waiting for my high school years to happen again (or at least until Doctor Who swings by for a weekend adventure), I’m not sitting still. There are books to edit, scripts to read, write and revise, a series to try and get off the ground, a whole ton of games that I’m slated to work on and with, and a heap of conventions, interviews and appearances to make. (This summer is going to be SO AWESOME you guys).

Were this ten months ago, I’d still be sitting in a Barnes & Noble Cafe talking to the same five people over and over again about how to write better paragraphs and build better characters and being grateful that they remembered to fork over five bucks to hear me speak. And I’d be working…a little. A little here, and a little there, and doing a lot of wishing / waiting for the stars to align / convening energies over magical altars (okay not really that last one, but damn close). And while some people love to take a lot of credit for making these things happen for me, and while I’m willing to give them thanks for supporting me and encouraging me, what really got me to the position I’m in now is ME DOING these things rather than waiting for them to happen.

Because it’s not a bus. There’s no timetable that if I just plop down on a bench, my exact goals will be brought to me on a platter (and other mixed metaphors). Some “work” (not always the stressful, tucked-in shirt kind – sometimes it means you just have to leave the house and talk to people, or go to that meeting or mention something to someone on Twitter) will have to done on your part, because every action (and therefore every consequence, thanks Newtonian physics), requires an investment of energy.

You want something to happen? Get started on making it happen. Take the risk. Jump out of the plane. Get off the couch. Transfer your dreams to your actions. Do shit.

If it really matters to you, you’ll push past the fears and make your dreams/wishes come true. Otherwise, it’s just hot air, and you can go make a good living filling up balloons.

How, you ask? How do I do this? Be brave, make the bold and scary choices, try, don’t assume failure or even success, assume that you’re going to do your best this time, and every time. When things get heavy and messy, don’t give up. Never give up.

Sound your Feasting Horn! Let us celebrate your good news and your soon-to-be-good news!

Happy writing.

Ask An Editor: Plot, Similarity and Length

In the last two weeks, this blog has really taken off. Part of me wants to say this is because all the seeds I planted about it are finally bearing fruit, but more than likely, people are responding better to the more honest tone I’ve been taking.

One of the new experiences I have to acclimate to is this idea that I’m now getting a lot more mail. Now while some of this mail isn’t great (really, people still send trolling hate e-mails in 2012?), a lot of these messages ask the same things, which has led me to start this new post on the blog, “Ask An Editor”.

Now, some disclaimers:

1. The answers I’m giving ARE NOT to be etched in stone, and they’re not the be-all or end-all of information. They are a combination of many years experience and my opinion, melded together to help you.
2. My answers are not sugar-coated. I…don’t really like to sugar-coat things, and quite frankly, it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to get a pat on the head when you may sometimes need a kick in the rear.
3. You don’t have to believe what I’m telling you, you’re very welcome to think I’m full of shit, but please consider at least reading what I have to say and then filing it away for later – you may surprise yourself.

Onto the questions (note: If you said it was okay to use your names, I’m using them. Otherwise, they’ll get  reduced to initials.)

Plot

C asks:  I’ve been working on this novel for three years now. I’ve written and revised this plot so many times because a lot of the rejections I’m getting say my plot is too complicated or “too much”. But I read published books all the time where the plots are WAY more complicated…what gives?

C, I have no idea what your specific plot is about, and please, don’t go send me an email explaining it. It’s not important to the answer I’m giving you here. No, really, I’m sure you’ve put a lot of detail and love into it, but in explaining it to me, you’re not going impress me with it. We have to start with some basics:

i. “Too much” is shorthand for either “boring” or “too complicated”. Suppose you’re writing a multi-generational romance saga with three eras of family members grow up, find love and experience life. And now suppose you add some quirks into this story like time travel, maybe some lasers and magical tap-dancing fairies. You know, to spice it up. The plot hasn’t changed really — it’s still going to be the story of character 1 going through plot points A to B to C and then character 2 going through their version and so on. But all those bells and whistles? Well, that’s not plot detail.

Here’s how you find your plot — strip out all the names for people, places and things. Boil down all the verbs to their most simple and active. Using really simple nouns and active verbs, spell out what happens in the story. That’s it. No rocket science required.

Here’s an example of a complicated, congested “too much” plot:
Sally Heaven is a hard working college student who graduates from school and moves into her ancestral home, only to find that because she is the fifth daughter of a fifth daughter born under a full moon, she is also the sole heiress to a vast fortune of pirate treasure, assuming she can figure out the map before sunrise on her next birthday.

Here’s the same plot concentrated:
A young woman learns she can inherit a treasure, assuming she can find it before her birthday.

But, I hear you say, you’ve taken all the “spice” out of my story! It sounds boring that way, story-ruiner! And before you come to my door bearing fire and pitchforks, I want you to learn something — SPICE IS NOT PLOT. Plot is just an expression of the problem(s) the characters are challenged by over the course of the story.

ii. You don’t have to ‘give it all away’ in the query. No, seriously, please don’t. The query, as I’ve said before, is just an opportunity to lead the reader into the manuscript. It acts as bridge, seductress, chat up line and movie trailer…not Cliffs Notes version. We should want to / have to read the manuscript to find out more details than those offered in the query. If you tell us how it begins and ends in the query, why should anyone bother with the manuscript?

Similarity

Next, we have a message from Thomas who writes: “I’ve been following a lot of agent blogs and re-tweeting a lot of agent tweets lately, but none of them are really talking about what I need them to. My problem is that I’ve written a story and well, it sounds a lot like three other books that just got published. How big a deal is that?”

Thomas, we need to first figure out what “sounds a lot like” means. Are you saying you and these other authors wrote exactly the same story? Or are you speaking more generally, because if we look at all stories from a wide enough scope, we’ll see similarities. If I zoom out far enough, all stories share the same set of traits and genealogy, all we’re ever doing is putting new skins and spins to them.

Yes, it’s very tempting to concern yourself with the ideas of originality, that whatever you’re created be the only one of its kind…but we’ve been telling stories for millenia, and while the foundations are universal, look to use that originality on whatever springs up beyond the foundations.

Great, it’s a story about woman overcoming Nature, (I know your specific book isn’t Thomas, I’m just giving an example), but what element of Nature is she overcoming? How is she overcoming it? What’s trying to stop her? What is she risking? These are the sorts of questions that sit on the foundation of “woman overcoming Nature”, and this level is where you start to define your story against the backdrop of all these other stories.

To distinguish your story, we come back to the very commonly discussed idea of voice and craft – what do you do, author (Thomas), that other people do differently? What makes you stand out from the rest so that were I to pick your story out a hat (or crowded inbox) I’d know it had your fingerprints all over it. That’s the sort of “deal” readers/agents/publishers/your grandmother is looking for.

I say again: No one wants you to or expects you to re-invent the wheel. And if you feel that you have to do that in order to get published, please leave all pursuits of writing behind and go take a knitting class or learn all about cat food or something, because you’ve entirely missed the point of writing and you’ll continue to miss it every time you charge up these batteries of “scarcity” “pressure” and “publication equals success”.

The reason why people say things like, “Just tell your story.” or “Just write the f#$king thing.” or “When in doubt, write.” is not to get you thinking about all that crap that publishers and agents and publication want you to swallow in copious amounts. Yes, writing’s hard. Yes, writing’s scary. But it’s a thousand times harder and scarier when you’re writing your guts out AND worrying that you sound too much like other people.

Believe you have the story in you to tell. That’s step 1. Transfer the story from your brain to some format. That’s step 2. Step 3 involves getting your story read, your craft honed and your first taste of feedback and revision. You’re going to repeat Step 3 for a while, until the story is complete and told to the best of your ability. Publication and an agent don’t even factor into most of step 3 so long as you’re still working out the story that you’re trying to tell. Also, you don’t always need one (the agent) to get the other (published), and I’d seriously look twice at anyone who stills holds so doggedly to that maxim.

And while we’re at it, what do you think the point of Twitter is? Retweets are not yours. You’re just passing on someone else’s thoughts to your audience. Now while I’m all for shouting to as many people as possible, every once in a while I like to have my own thoughts mixed in there, not just a grocery list or an update about what I did in the last two hours. When I say thoughts, I mean YOUR thoughts on publishing. Your fears. Your anxieties. Put it right out there in 140 character sandwiches for us to nibble on. It’s yet another way to tell YOUR story.


Length

And lastly we come to a quick note from M, whose message I’m paraphrasing because they’ve written it with a lot of emoticons and acronyms and I’m not sure I’ve got the patience to figure out why M is laughing at the end of every second line.

M writes: “I’m writing a novel. Can you believe it? (see, this is where there was a LOL, mind the gap) But I’m stuck. How come there are so many different listings for how long a novel should be? (also a LOL here)”

Okay, I’m going to let you behind the curtain and give you some special writing secrets. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? Here’s your answer M.

Your story will be as long as your story needs to be in order to be complete and told to the best of your ability.

Now before you get snippy and say I didn’t answer the question because I didn’t mention that there’s about 250 words to a printed page, or that the average book is 300 pages in paperback, remember that you’re in charge of this story. If it’s coming up short, that’s not some random publisher’s fault. That’s on you, dear author. (Yes, I will further argue that you can’t really have an idea of “short” because it’s grossly subjective.)

The reason people can’t agree on what’s “right” for a novel is because thanks to the wonders of publishing, there can be more than one “right”, and they’re all acceptable. You may talk to Agent X who says a book should be a certain length, while Publisher Q says it should have twice that, and maybe Editor H says you have eight times too much, cut it back.

Who’s right? They all are. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. They’re not the boss of your work. Yes, you may hold onto the notion that they’re “gatekeepers” and they’re opposition for you on some kind of publication-chessboard, and you may also think that editors want nothing more than the cackle gleefully over the charred remains of your life’s work.

Your story (novel, novella, piece, manuscript, baby, whatever) is however long it needs to be. Rather than worry about some label when people ask about it (or what you’re doing) tell them ABOUT what you’re doing. It’s way more interesting to hear that you’re writing a story about a man who wants to build a golem out of cereal than to hear you’re writing a novella.

Find those opportunities to talk about your love, so that you can grow your love and make new opportunities.

I hope people found the answers to these questions useful. I’d really like to make this a regular blog feature.

Happy writing.

Letting Go Of Perfect

At 2:41 this morning I woke up after a terrible dream where an MMA fighter threatened to kill me with a clothes iron if I didn’t admit I failed at life. And as much as I pleaded with him that I screwed up, that I was wrong, he menaced me until I said, “I failed, okay, I failed.” Then he killed me with the iron anyway, because the badguys in my dreams are often dicks like that.

I spent the next two-ish hours laying in bed, wide awake, scared to go back to sleep and scared to do anything about my racing heart and anxieties. Do I wake someone up and tell them what happened? What if I do that and they tell me the same thing they’ve said before (which is “you need to go talk to a professional” and “it’s almost three in the morning, let me go back to bed”)? So I didn’t bother anyone else with it, and attempted to assert control over it. I figure if Indian Yogis can slow their breathing and pulse while living in a cave, surely I can stave off what feels like sodomy of my heart valves while submerged underwater while laying in bed.

So, like all people, I started thinking about what I have to do today (Monday). I have a morning full of edits for other people to do, I have to drop off a bike to someone, I have to shoot a commercial (or at least be in the room while the footage is edited, I’m not sure my exact role tonight), and I have three tasks that I’ve been meaning to get to, but keeping talking myself out of – I want to clean off this desk; I want to really work on the plot of my novel (now that it was pointed out to me that it doesn’t actually get solved); and I really want to spend time today reading some of the books that have been part of a growing stack by the side of the bed.

Admittedly the books aren’t really a problem. I can crack one open and get through it before bed. And the desk really won’t be that big a deal to clear off, It’s just a pile of papers to sort through, some garbage to throw out and things to put away in drawers – I can do it after I write this post. The commercial tonight is going to be amazing, because it’s done by some great designers and actors and I get to be a part of it. The bike thing, yeah it’s gnawing at me because I really don’t want to have to deal with it, but you know what, it’ll be over and done with and I can get on with my day. It’s not going to be a big deal, it’s just an errand, whatever.

The plot, yeah working with the plot is going to gnaw at me. And it’s what I want to talk about today.

I want my plot and my characters, my whole book, honestly, to be perfect. I guess it comes from feeling so uneasy about myself or maybe taking it really hard when I get yelled at or chastised when I was little or just wanting people to like it and like me because of what I did. And I read a lot (I mean an absurd) number of ebooks and stories and drafts and things from a lot of authors and find myself saying, “That didn’t live up to my expectations.” or “I would do it differently” or “That ending kinda fell flat…I wanted more.” And I do an ungodly amount of comparison to other people’s work, even when I know I shouldn’t.

Like right now I’m reading a biography of Rex Stout, a writer I greatly admire and whose characters Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe have been tremendously influential on my own characters (Kestrel and John Ramsey) as well as my reading in the genre (it’s a tough yardstick to measure against). Yesterday I’m laying on the bed reading and I come across this sentence (I’ll paraphrase):

“Rex was able to deliver a complete novel manuscript that didn’t need much editing in 6 weeks, and a novella manuscript within 12 days.”

After I read that four times to make sure it wasn’t a typo, I paced through the living room a few times, absolutely bothered. A novel in 6 weeks? Someone reminded me that I’ve edited whole novels in 2 weeks, but, I said, editing is not the same as writing it. It’s amazing. It’s freaking unbelievable.

And it agitated me for the rest of the day. I want so badly to be like that. To be a whirling dervish of story telling and be prolific and loved by readers and regarded well, but how am I supposed to do that with all these other things on my plate?

Don’t get me wrong, I love every single editorial job I have right now, and I am thrilled, humbled, grateful and awed by the work done on these projects by people who I strongly believe are among the best writers of their generation. But part of me (although a smaller part lately) says I too can write. And that I’m getting older (as if mid-30s are a death sentence) and I haven’t accomplished the things I wanted to. And in that comes the anxiety.

Because if I’m going to do anything, whether it’s editing or writing or cleaning the desk or giving stuff to people I’d rather not deal with, I want it to go perfectly (perfectly, I should point out, doesn’t mean I get what I want while other people get shit on, I mean everyone involved gets what what’s best situationally, even if the outcome isn’t 100% exact to their desires).

So my book, I want it to be well-received and without flaws in the plot or the construction. I’m not expecting it to come perfect out of my head, I know all too well the editing that goes into it, but post-edits, I do want it to be the best thing I’ve written, without flaws. I recently edited a book and now it’s out and available, and someone I know read it and would regularly say “Found a typo.” This only happened two or three times, and I know they weren’t saying it to turn a knife in my guts, but oh man, did that ever turn a knife in my guts. Because I want any work I do to be devoid of errors so that people will see that I do good work, and that the work is successful.

I have to let go of perfect. I know I do. I know perfect is unattainable. I know it logically. Even while writing this post I’m going back through and correcting my errors and changing sentences. But emotionally, I kick myself hard for not being perfect…or better. The two words are sort of synonymous in my head. I think they are for a lot of people, especially if they grew up with a perceived distance between them and the next person, either because they were smaller or less fit or bigger or less smart or not the most popular or whatever.

So I laid there in bed in the dark, hearing other people snore, and thought about plot of the book. Was it too complicated? Does that character have to die? Isn’t that the same sort of thing everyone else does? Why do I have to reinvent the wheel? Is the fact that this is so goddamned hard a sign that I shouldn’t be doing it? Over and over these questions tumbled through the dark space in the bedroom, and I scoured myself for answers.

The problem, I’ve identified so far, is that while I can write a good story, I don’t know if it’s good ‘enough’. So maybe I should lump “enough” in with “better” and “perfect” and expunge them from my vocabulary. This constant comparison of did-I-do-better-than-that-other-person is only going to make my gray hair grayer and leave me awake in a cold sweat in the dark. But for as much I would love to say that this all stems back to the fact that I didn’t get enough hugs in the first grade or that I made really poor choices with my last few relationships, what I’m really talking about it the fact that I spend a lot of time and energy believing in other people and not really believing in myself.

When I do believe in myself, I can sit down and write forty pages a day, and the ideas and words geyser out of me and it’s a pleasure to write carefree and dynamically. But when there’s all this doubt, that easy-wheeling nature ebbs and I start to sweat the writing of even a few new words and become critical of the ones I’ve already written.

I have noticed that when I believe in myself (which I do for a great many tasks without thinking twice about it), “perfect” doesn’t enter into any part of what I’m doing. Want me to edit? Sure. Send the stuff to me. Go grocery shopping? Awesome. Want me to sort out the recycling? Rock on. But….install a ceiling fan on crappy wires in a cramped dark overhead space? Not so much. Build a stepstool that looks like came from a factory of blind Morlocks? Not without wanting to throw the wrench across the room.

Yes you can say, “John, lots of people would feel exactly the same way in those situations. That’s totally normal.” And yes, I’m sure loads of people would get super frustrated upon discovering that the wiring is substandard and likely a fire hazard or that the stool is missing vital parts (like pre-measured drilled holes), but if they are, they’re not saying shit about it. I wish more people would. I kinda blame social media for driving people towards the ends of the poles (either super-fantastic-yay-moments or end-of-times-complaining), rather than somewhere in the middle where we just get to moments where we hate Philips head screwdrivers and feel tense about our work.

Perfect is not what I want. Complete is what I want. Love, for lack of a more clear word, is what I want. And that means I have to clamp down on that screaming voice that tells me that if my work isn’t perfect it won’t be enjoyed. That, if you’re curious, can be SUPER hard.

But I’m working on it. And will continue to work on it. I guess the first step is to clear off this desk, then go deal with this bike situation.

Have a good day writing everyone.

The Nine-Step Checklist

We start today with a story from my youth.

I was about ten or maybe eleven and my family was heading down to our shore house for the month of July, which meant that my dad got use “The Checklist”. As if he was prepping an Apollo moon launch, he made sure all the bags (I have a feeling we always overpacked, a trait I’ve inherited from him) were first staged in the living room the night before, and then loaded into the car just after breakfast while my mom packed the huge Igloo cooler with food  (I don’t remember if we yet realized there was a grocery store ten minutes from the house, or maybe it wasn’t built yet or something). The cooler would go in last, and we’d be all set to go. And then we’d be in the car, all buckled in, me with my books, dad behind the wheel, mom in the backseat with my brother and some cross-stitch. But we wouldn’t leave.

My dad began the next stage of his checklist. He’d check his wallet, to make sure he had money. He’d check the front door (3 stiff pulls, practically slams) to make sure it was locked. He’d look in every first-floor window to make sure the lights were out. And then he’d start the questions, aimed mostly at my mother.

“Is the oven off?” (It wouldn’t matter that this was late June/early July, and my mom hadn’t likely baked anything since mid-May.)
“Did you lock the back door?” (No matter how she answered, he’d go check, meaning he’d open the front door, check the back door and then re-check the front on his way out.)
“Is the TV unplugged?” (This later became my responsibility when I was twelve. I remember getting this job because my wrists were narrow enough to slide behind the monster set and pull the plug out.)
“Is the freezer closed?” (In filling the cooler, my mom emptied the giant basement freezer, and would go so far as to defrost it if she got up early enough. Years later she started stacking things in front of the empty freezer in case it ‘just popped open’, but I think it was more to fuck with the old man.)

The answer to all these questions was, “Yes John.” (A sentence to this day that makes my skin crawl.) And I was impatient – the beach was waiting! While this checking took maybe five minutes, it felt like it took hours, and I remember being incredibly frustrated with every slam-slam-slam of the front door and the sound of my father riffing through the stack of bills in his wallet. I don’t know what he was expecting to find or not find, but I just wanted him to get the car moving.

I asked my dad once, “What’s with all the checking?” And his answer was, “It’s just what you have to do, to make sure you get everything together before you move forward.” Now, the chances are great that I rolled my eyes while he answered my question, in fact I’m sure I even threw in a sigh for emphasis.

The sigh was my sign that I’d never be like that, that I’d be able to leave the house without the almost superstitious dance of pocket and door checks.

That sigh was way wrong. I might not check the door three times, but I’ve definitely caught myself a little freaked that maybe I didn’t put my wallet in my pocket, or maybe I didn’t put my credit card back in my wallet after dinner, or maybe I didn’t shut the freezer door all the way six hours ago when I put that bag of ice in there. There’s a little wrestling match in my head about whether or not I did or didn’t do something, and usually it’s resolved either by me going and checking or by whoever I’m with at the time reminding me I did.

Checklists are good tools, and you don’t have to take them into Super-OCD land for them to be effective. Here now is my not-so-OCD checklist for your story or script or game, so that you can make sure everything’s together before you move forward.

Act 1

Have you set the table? “Setting the table” means have you rolled out the three P’s (Protagonist(s), Place(s), Plot), so that your readers (or players, if we’re talking games) know who’s doing what where and why.

What’s the palette like? By the time we’re well invested into the first Act of your creation, we should have a pretty firm grasp on the tone, feel, vibe and scale of the story. If you’re writing about a save-the-universe sort of sci fi adventure, then I’d sort of expect the story to be a certain size and scope. Your word choice will tell me the “color” of the story: if your protagonists are fighting an uphill battle, if the world is “gritty”, if the badguys are more intense, etc.

Is it clear what the next action will be? If you can’t get an idea of what’s next based on what just happened, (it doesn’t have to be a directly linear idea, it can be somewhat inferred or logical) then what just happened wasn’t enough. Or it’s not done cooking. Or you need to spice it up a little. Insert your favorite food metaphor here.

Act 2

Are we seeing skills (gamers: the opportunity for skills)? By this point in the story, we should be seeing the protagonist doing what they do (and hopefully that means doing things different or better than how we do them) and how the results (successes AND failures) drive the plot forward (don’t confuse “forward” for “success”, failure IS an option that can transform and evolve characters).

Do the options you’ve created have purpose? “Options” is a broad term meaning the off-shoots of the main plot. This could be the suspects in a crime story, the different avenues or routes to take in a travelogue, the number of topics in your book of essays or anything that demonstrates that you just don’t have a really simple plot that can be wrapped up in like six pages and you’re just filling space and killing time.

How high is your climax? While you’re still in the bulk of the book, and while you’re still laying out the dominoes so they can topple later, it’s a good time to start seeing how high this stack builds up so you know how far (and how fast) it will come tumbling down. The climax is the highest point in a story. The greatest moment of tension, the most intense scene(s), the most knockdown fight. If your story ratchets up the tension, emotion, action or stakes AFTER that, then that new scene is the climax. Map out your scenes, climb that ladder (I guess in a future post I’ll have to talk about the climax ladder) and adjust accordingly.

Act 3

How are your loose ends? I know, a lot of writers want to be “edgy” or “creative” or “smart” and they lay out these intricate plots where you have to super-focus on some detail because it’s the lynch pin of the whole book. And there’s nothing worse than realizing that the detail that clinches the story is something you (or gamers, your players) overlooked because it didn’t seem important at the time. Likewise, those characters you drop into a scene, just for the sake of the scene, they’re only momentarily memorable. You’re not breaking new ground in having that three-line-delivering guy from Chapter Six show back up in the end and play a bigger role. You don’t need to tie EVERYTHING up in a nice (read: convenient) bow anymore than than you need to trim the number of loose ends down to the barest essentials. Just keep track of them. If you’ve got a few that don’t go anywhere and sort of disappear, maybe they don’t need to be there in the first place.

What’s the resolution look like? So the climax happened. And now the story’s emotional and action roller-coaster coasts back down to a normal range of possibilities. Here we can start to see things end both internally (the plot) and externally (the book is running out of pages), so what happens AFTER climax? You don’t need to spend an equivalent amount of time bringing us back down to earth as you spent getting us into the heavens, but you do have to spend a little time so that we can catch our breath and start to organize ourselves to end the story. Again, mapping it out is CRUCIAL.

Is the door open or closed? The “door” here is whether or not you’ve explicitly or not created the possibility to revisit this world and these characters again. NOTE – I am not saying that all stories need to be serialized, I’m just asking you if this particular one is built for it. If the door is open, then we as readers are free to continue these adventures in our imagination, essentially taking the storytelling reins from you. If the door is closed, then we better be satisfied by how things wrapped up, else we’ll just take the reins from you and pretend it didn’t go down like that (I’m looking at you Sopranos, third Hunger Games book, Lost and the Mary Russell series).

That checklist will help you take your stories wherever they are, in whatever shape they’re in, and help them go forward, so that you can too can go to your vacations (metaphoric and literal) fully confident that everything is awesome.

Happy writing. Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo.

See you Monday (now if there’s no blog post on Monday, it’s not because I partied too hard this weekend, it’s because I know Monday is PACKED with work, some of which I can’t yet talk about it.)

Turning Obstacles Into Cheerleaders

Imagine this scene – You want to produce a play or write a book or paint or learn how to tattoo or make jewelry….something that is fun and rewarding but hardly super lucrative. Maybe you want to be an editor or play some role in the game design field. You’ll be happy, you’ll have fun, but you won’t be swimming in a money vault anytime soon. And maybe upon the announcement that you’re going down this new path, a whole chorus of voices is going to pop up and express their disappointment, or their doubts or their fears or guilt that you’re doing something “not on the plan”. Hearing these voices, seeing their faces, realizing that while you’re doing this creative thing you aren’t at some other job, or you’re not working with a whole lot of security or wealth options,  you get scared and call yourself “stuck” and don’t do anything.

That scene, in some way/shape/form happens to everyone who wants to deviate from the path other people have laid out before them, and everyone who wants to do their own thing, be they recent college graduates, new parents, new creatives or newly awoken from the Matrix. 
Lots of people feel “stuck”, which is just another word, a more muted word for “afraid”. 
It’s time to get unstuck. 
Now I can talk about this because I’ve been stuck before, and was often stuck for years on end, so it’s not like I’m speculating here. I’ll spare you the grim personal details (they’re more boring than melodramatic), but really it just comes down to some fears, which I’ll talk about first, then I’ll talk about the solution I found — it may not be your solution, but maybe in my sharing it, you’ll find your own solution.
So here now are some of the fears that get you “stuck”:
Fear of Rejection — Whenever we do something that goes out into the world and other people have the opportunity to see it, it is possible that some people may not like it. And from that idea of “some people”, we explode and expand it to all people, so basically “everyone” hates that thing you did. You start thinking to yourself “No one’s going to like this/ buy this / enjoy this / watch this / read this, so why the hell do I even bother doing it?” And then you don’t do it. 
Fear of Exposure — If you’re doing something, maybe a group project on a job, or maybe something with some partners, or you’re doing something with a hint of competition, you might run the risk of “being exposed”, which is a nice way of saying “People are going to figure out that I’m not as good at this as other people. They’re going to see I suck.” so either you don’t contribute or you pipe down about your contributions and play a bit part. You hold yourself back, sometimes going so far as to say that if you didn’t, people would see how much better you are at this, and think you’re an arrogant jerk. 
Fear of Disappointing Others — If you go do this creative thing, there’s a possibility your spouse/significant other/children/co-workers/friend(s)/loved ones/parents may not like it. They may scoff and tell you that with every step you take away from some other course of action, you’re failing them. So, in order not to avoid letting these people you love down (because you’re not supposed to let them down, right?), you don’t do the thing you want to do.
Fear of Failure — Sure you might go do something, but you might suck at it. Your products may not sell, people may hate you, they may sue you when your creation doesn’t do what they thought it would, they may chase you out of town with pitchforks and fire….so to avoid the inevitable fall of Camelot, you don’t undertake that creative endeavor. 
I’m sure there are loads more fears out there, but these are the ones I can speak of from personal experience. But, if you’re following me on Twitter or reading this blog, you’ve likely noticed that I am currently not-stuck in any facet of my life. Now before you get mad that there’s some sort of sorcery afoot, let me tell you that there’s two things I’m doing:
a. I’m not giving up
b. I’m turning obstacles into cheerleaders.
I think we can all understand not giving up. I’m a stubborn, obnoxious, bristly person at times, and when I lock onto something (a project, a goal, a desire) I do not easily let it go. And often I remove the chance to give up by running down the goal at a jillion miles an hour so there’s no hope of me slamming on the brakes and giving into the above-described fears. When there’s something you want to do, you just can’t give up. How else were you planning on getting the results you want?
As for that second bit, I can’t take credit for it. I learned it from an Australian DJ once. So just imagine item (b) with an Australian accent. (for the curious, it’s something like ‘Opstackels inna chairliters, mate’) It refers to the idea that when you’re surrounded by a crowd of doubt (real or imagined, actual people or just thoughts), you can turn that negative into a positive — you can make those fears into motivators.
Sure the easy way is to take on the fear as a challenge and say, “Oh yeah? Watch me!” and then you sort of compete against your fear, proving it wrong as you go forward. There’s nothing actually wrong with that, but it’s way draining to sit there and have to prove something to the people you love or the faceless “audience”. 
I say skip the competition. Involve those that hate or dismiss in your efforts, or cut them out entirely. There’s even a John Rule (#6) about it: “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”
Okay, not everything’s a joke, but you can just swap out “joke” for “success”, because to them, the possibility of your success may be a joke. If people are really committed to disliking your work or your efforts, no amount of success-in-their-face is going to dissuade them. You could offer favors, barter, beg, give them whatever profit you make, you could give them the moon and stars, and they’ll still not like your stuff. Hell, some people won’t even LOOK AT your stuff and they’ll dismiss it like you just pooped on the Thanksgiving turkey.

Turning an obstacle into a cheerleader isn’t magic, or a trick or even manipulative. You don’t even have to talk to that obstacle at all for this to work. You just need to do the following:
i. Complete your project
ii. Be excited/happy about your project
iii. Share your project with interested people
iv. Repeat i – iv.
Rather than deal with the haters, the doubters and those who would guilt you, find the people who would support you. (You may call them “friends”). If you can’t find someone to support you (now admittedly I’m assuming that your creative endeavor doesn’t include making sacrifices to pagan gods, kidnapping babies from hospitals, robbing the elderly or kicking puppies), I’ll support you, just send me an email with ‘Support Me!” in the subject line (seriously, try it out.)
Let’s look at the steps.
i. Complete your project – This will abolish that fear of failure, because if something’s done, you haven’t failed at it. You did it. It’s the total opposite of failing. 
ii. Be excited/happy about your project – This will nuke that fear of exposure, because if you’re happy, there’s nothing to expose. What are people going to do, be happy with you? Your excitement is a powerful infection vector, and your job is to share your Outbreak monkey with the world. 
iii. Share your project with interested people – This will crush the other fears because people who like the thing you do aren’t going to reject it (or you) nor will they be disappointed because you’re giving them something they like. Key here is “interested”, so it helps to know a little about the sort of people you want to see your completed project (this is also called ‘knowing your audience’).
iv. Repeat steps – Originally this idea was “Repeat as needed”, but “needed” says to me that you don’t always want to share cool things with cool people, and I’ve never met a situation where cool people didn’t want cool things. Also, by repeating these steps you’re creating a new path of thoughts in your brain (that thing you’re in charge of) and training yourself to accept a new philosophy, one built on being happy and loving yourself for your successes, not living in fear of not-succeeding. 
If you do these things, and you don’t half-ass them, the things (the doubts, the people) who oppose (or who you believe oppose) you will transform into people who support you. I didn’t believe this at first, and thought  I had just found a Jedi Mind Trick (this is not the failure you’re looking for)…but really what I had stumbled into was a universal truth.
Here’s the universal truth, as I’ve found it — Your loved ones just want you to be happy and successful. They’re going to have their own views of success, as tempered and developed by their experiences, but their experiences aren’t your experiences, so they’re going through this with you (sometimes for the first time) too. If you show them the positives (the happiness, the success, the pleasure), they’ll support you. The people who bitch or dislike what you’re doing? They just wish they had the courage to do the same, or they’re mad because your success (even your efforts) has challenged their world view that you-can’t-succeed-and-be-happy-it’s-one-or-the-other. And since people don’t like getting their views challenged, they fight back.
So for me, it was my family and my relationships. I thought that if I really committed to doing what I wanted to do, they’d hate me for it. Now, yes, some of those relationships did hate me for it (because I didn’t have to commute to work, and because I didn’t/don’t deal with projects that aren’t interesting, because I’m going after my dreams rather than sitting in a crappy job or that I’m doing, rather than thinking/wishing/envisioning, what I want). But my family, they just wanted to make sure I had enough money to get by in the world and that I wasn’t killing myself a minute at a time in some depressed state. 
And every other fear lived in my head. I fostered these thoughts by being sort of a dick to people and making really bad choices that led to crappy consequences because I was more interested in appearing “the way other people do” rather than just being me. Now, looking at everything, it is SO MUCH easier to be me, and I’m way happier.
Does this system eliminate all the obstacles? Nope. I still run into bills that need to pay, clients that need to pay me, weird situations that I can’t fix, and roadblocks to awesome that are out of my hands (like seriously, I can’t do anything about the factory in Singapore going on strike and therefore not producing ink). But I’m able to get past the obstacles because I’m doing what I love, so as long as I can do that, I get sort of Teflon-y and everything slides off. 
No ink? That’s cool, I’ll just work on the digital version.
No extra cash to take a lady to dinner? No problem, let’s just stay in and cook. 
Company X didn’t send me a check? Company A, B, C and D did though, so it’s alright.
I leave you with this. 
and 
Happy writing.

Announcement! Classes I’m Teaching

Over on the right there you may see a new button on the sidebar in place of  the Facebook Badges (which did squat).

Yes, I’m offering online classes this Fall (September – November) and will run through just about Thanksgiving.

I’m offering 2 classes on 2 separate nights, time to be determined:


Tuesdays — Plot and Character Development
Sundays — Marketing

The price for each complete class (9 weeks) is $289.00

**The per-week cost is $75.00, if you only want certain weeks.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and haven’t had a chance until now to really put everything together. I’m excited to offer this.

So what will your purchase, which I know is a lot of money for some of you, get you? Here’s a break down.

Plot & Character Development
September 4 – November 20 (9 weeks) 

  • Learn the steps to building, fixing, crafting and evolving characters that readers enjoy following (and that you enjoy writing)
  • With actual exercises, see your own creations come to life and get advice on how to make them dance to the beats of their own drums. 
  • Learn how to build plots that drive books forward like race cars, and send people from page to page, chapter to chapter. 
  • Catch those holes in plots that make manuscripts spin out of control and fall apart
Marketing 

September 9 – November 25 (9 weeks)

  • Learn what happens after you finish that manuscript. 
  • Learn how marketing begins while you’re still writing.
  • Find simple strategies you can everyday FOR FREE that make a difference in sales later.
Q: How are we going to do this?
Via Google+ Hangout.
Q: How large a class will this be?
7 seats per class are available (so it’s 8 people, counting me)
Note – if there’s interest, I will consider other options for larger classes, but that will likely increase the price.
Q: How long will each session be?
Figure about 2 hours for each session, but understand that 2.5 hours isn’t out of the realm of possibility. 
Q: So what do I need in order to do this?
You’ll need a Google+ account. (It’s free).
You’ll need a microphone, and ideally, headphones to block out the fuzzy background sound.
If you want to do video, you’ll need a webcam. (Optional)
Q: I don’t have the money right now, but I will soon, what can I do?
Send me an email ASAP and say you want to reserve a seat. This is first come, first serve. But if you don’t have the money by July 30, you lose the reservation.
Q: You said on Facebook you’d do three classes, where’s that third class?
The schedule didn’t permit a third weeknight consumed. But stay tuned to Twitter for announcements about that. 
Any updates to this information will be available on the “Classes” page of this blog.