Category Archives: My writing

Authors Answer 143 – The First Book Advance

How common are advances large enough to raise this question, anyway?

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Writing books is a job. Most authors do it with the hope that they can become a full time author, and be able to support themselves on the income they receive. But that first advance is a big milestone in any author’s career. This week’s question comes from our very own C E Aylett.

I would also like to take a moment and thank Beth Aman for her contributions in the past year. She’s going to college, and will be concentrating on that. Good luck, Beth!

Question 143 – What would you/did you spend your first book advance on?

Linda G. Hill

I would spend my advance getting myself out of debt. …wait, how much are we talking? More than $30,000? I’ll probably go out for coffee.

Cyrus Keith

Probably a car. I’ve never had a car that I didn’t have to spend dark, cold evenings in my driveway effecting…

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Authors Answer 142 – Becoming Famous

In any case, any potential downside falls into the category of “problems I’d like to have”.

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The vast majority of authors never become famous. They never have a bestseller. They are pretty much unknown. But many authors dream of making it big, becoming one of those authors who is a household name. But how would we handle that newfound fame?

Question 142 – How do you think you would handle fame if your books become as popular as authors like Stephen King?

C E Aylett

I’m a pretty sociable person so I’d probably be far too open for my own good! I’d also like to think I’d keep my feet on the ground and just keep on being me, with perks.

H. Anthe Davis

Authors are hardly rock stars, so I wouldn’t think the pressure of fame would be excessive. There would likely be convention appearances and book signings, so my antisocial little self might have trouble maintaining a pleasant face, but I’ve manned a sales…

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Authors Answer 141 – Choosing a Title

For chapter titles I like the referential sort.

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How can something so simple-looking be so difficult? The title may only be a few words, but it’s very important, especially if it’s to be memorable and eye-catching. A book could go through several titles before the final one is chosen. How do we choose our titles?

Question 141 – How do you come up with the title of your stories?

Gregory S. Close

Things that I think are important in a chapter/story/novel title:  double-meanings, turns of phrase, foreshadowing, and (if at all possible) a pun.  For example, one chapter in In Siege of Daylight is called Storms and Wards.  The title is literal, in that there is a storm involved, and magic (wards).  But there’s a bit of double meaning here, because there’s also a bit of conversation about conflict and politics, and the conversation is between a Master Bard and our hero, an Apprentice Bard (his ward…

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Authors Answer 140 – Developing Plot

I’m about halfway between a plotter and a pantser.

A plantser.

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You need characters and setting for a story, but what would it be without a plot? Not much of anything. The plot may be one of the most complex parts of writing. A good plot isn’t predictable and straightforward. There may be multiple story lines running through the plot, but they all lead to one conclusion. So, how do we develop our plots?

Question 140 – How do you develop the plot of your stories?

Eric Wood

To develop a plot I sketch it out much like an artist would. An artist might draw out the art piece in pencil with very light strokes that are easily covered. I sketch out the plot of my stories with short words, a few descriptions, and random ideas to that come to me. It’s when I sit down to write the story in full that I then fill in details and move the…

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Authors Answer 139 – Developing Setting

I think this is an area where I need improvement, but also one where I am improving.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Last week, we talked about characters. But now they need a place. A well-rounded book has a setting. A good setting can create the atmosphere, whether it’s a real place or imagined. Real places are already established for the author, but they have to know it well. Imagined places require world building, and that can be a complex process. How do our authors tackle setting?

Question 139 – How do you develop the setting of your stories?

Gregory S. Close

I develop setting the same way that I develop characters, by establishing a history, economics, rules, laws, mores, religions, geography, species etcetera and then strictly adhering to that until I need to ignore it, modify it, or do whatever else serves the story best. There were a lot of things for In Siege of Daylight that shifted or changed altogether as the story came together, but having the solid foundation…

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Authors Answer 138 – Developing Characters

I keep character sheets to maintain consistency, but only the most mundane details (like exact height) are actually decided with a sheet in front of me.

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Characters are central to a story. They need to be well-developed and believable to be considered good characters in a serious story. It’s important to make sure their behaviour is consistent. We’re going back to basics this month, talking about the development of stories. This week, it’s characters.

Question 138 – How do you develop the characters of your stories?

H. Anthe Davis

Jeez, I don’t know… I’m five books into a series, so at this point when I introduce a new character, I usually I have a vague idea of what I need from them (antagonist or ally? from which faction? which gender, which skills?), and then I spin details off of that base, trying not to duplicate traits from other characters. Then I write them into scenes with other established characters and figure out how they interact, and either expand upon them if it’s an interesting dynamic, or…

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Authors Answer 137 – Unusual Writing Inspirations

And anything not written down is malleable enough to develop in unpredictable ways without any one point of inspiration being unusual.

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Authors’ ideas don’t just pop in their minds from nowhere. Something has to inspire them. It could be a person, a scene, an event, a song, anything. Many of these inspirations are quite ordinary. But sometimes, they can be pretty strange.

Question 137 – What was one of the most unusual writing inspirations that sparked a story idea?

H. Anthe Davis

A couple years ago, I wrote a rather large short story (short novella?) based on an idea of very boring vampires. Urban vampire fantasy is always so seduction/violence/whatever-based, and I just don’t like it…but I played several years of Vampire: The Masquerade with friends, so had ideas of other ways to write it. Which is how I ended up with a story about a vampire accountant who finds himself rescued from a vampire-on-vampire conflict over his just-destroyed clan’s wealth and resources by a glam Jewish vampire-hunter and her werewolf…

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Authors Answer 136 – Living in a Book

There’s a meme that says this:
“Narnia fans: We want to go to Narnia.
Harry Potter fans: We want to go to Hogwarts.
Hunger Games fans: We’re good.”

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Ever want to give up your life and transport yourself into the book you’re reading? Just completely start a new life and become someone new, living in a new place. It’s quite likely a lot of people do. One of the great things about reading books is the ability of the readers to lose themselves in the book. Some are great to live in, others not. What would we choose?

Question 136 – If you could live in any book, which one would you choose?

Eric Wood

Game of Thrones? To live in dark times where I’d probably die? No thanks. Love the books, don’t want to live there. Harry Potter? To be a wizard would fun, most definitely. Maybe in Terry Brooks’s world in “Kingdom For Sale, Sold“. The main character lives in today’s world but finds a portal to a magical kingdom. I like…

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Authors Answer 135 – Authors’ Biggest Failures

My writing pace has varied from “cheetah” to “glacier”.

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Everyone fails at something. I failed to post the Authors Answer for the last two weeks. But I was on a trip in Japan. Since we are talking about writing, authors tend to have plenty of failures, right? That’s what we’re talking about. How bad can it get?

Question 135 – What is your biggest writing failure?

H. Anthe Davis

If you mean the piece I did worst on, I’d say my Book 1. Even after years and years of development, I still feel like I pushed it out too early, with several issues still unresolved. I just really wanted to get it out there, and ignored some critique in order to do so. I’ve since gone back and amended that, and will be republishing the book soon, but I still wish I’d waited. If you mean my biggest writing failing, as in what I do badly… I think I…

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Authors Answer 134 – Are Authors Organised?

And yet some of the most important stuff is still only in my head.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Are authors organised? Many authors take notes, but not all do. Some authors have colour-coded pens, post-it notes, and different notebooks for different things. Some use paper, some use computer spreadsheets. Everyone has their own way. This week, we’re talking about how we organise our notes.

Question 134 – How do you organise your notes?

Beth Aman

For my first novel, I had a spiral notebook that held everything – all my plot ideas, scenes, characters, sketches.  For actual plotting, however, I used 3×5 notecards.  Each one had a major plot point on it, and I lined them all up on a wall in my room.  Then I could add other notecards underneath with further explanations or questions, and I could easily re-arrange my plot points.  It was a great visual, and I liked it better having it up on a wall instead of having it on a computer screen. …

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